Tuesday, September 24, 2013

a Syrian student's letter to her teacher

dear Teacher,

excuse me if i don't know your name yet, but i'm very lucky to be accepted at this new school since i've lost mine over the summer, will tell you that story in class one day. i'm writing today just to ask you for a favor, actually a few favors.

i've heard from my neighbor that you're a nice teacher, this is great news, but i'd like you to be more than that. you don't know me yet, but believe me i'm a good student, a clean and tidy girl, you would've loved to have me in your class had things been the same they used to.

if you see my uniform unclean or not ironed one day, please don't punish me. my mom does our laundry by hand and we don't have electricity or running water most days and we can't always borrow an iron. i miss my home, it was a small apartment but it had all we need. now it's gone, a missile hit our building and brought it to the ground, some of our neighbors were buried under the wreckage.

if you need a different note book for each subject, please don't ask me to buy several ones, i can only afford this small notebook my brother bought me on his way back from work, he wants me to finish grade 6 while he dropped out of school since my father died. it doesn't matter how i lost my dad during the summer, people keep asking me if he was with the regime army or the Free Syrian Army, if he is an opposition member or loyal to the government... he was killed and that's all what matters to me, my dad is gone forever and nothing can change that.

if you think that my handwriting is not neat please don't scold me in front of the class, we're all crowded in one room and we have no table, there are several families living in this place and tens of people sharing the same bathroom and kitchen. it's not easy to write nicely when i'm kneeling down on the floor of our small room.

if you find me looking out the classroom window (i hope we'll have a real window in our class) please don't call my name, let me with my daydreams for a few minutes, it's my only way to moments of happiness. i rarely sleep at night because i can still hear sounds of gunshots, missiles, bombings, babies crying, mothers screaming for help for their wounded children... i can still hear all of that in my head, sometimes i cry myself to sleep, but i hate to sleep because i always have nightmares... and sometimes.... it's embarrassing to tell you that....sometimes i wet my bed... actually it's not a real bed, i share a mattress on the floor with my brother but he never tells my mom, she misses my dad a lot and she already has enough things to worry about.

if you discover that i'm absent one day please don't try to call my mom, we have no phone and i can tell you that the reason would most probably be my little brother. he's sick and my mother leaves him with me on some days when she hears that medicine and formula arrived to the public hospital and it's very far away, transportation is difficult and mom can't take a toddler with her. i like playing with my brother, he looks a lot like my dad and doesn't seem to mind when i cry and laugh at the same time when i let him play with my only pen or my hair band, i'm sure he misses his toys, i miss mine too, now buried with our apartment, with our memories, with our happy years.

there's so much to tell you my dear teacher, when you get to know me you'll see that i'm a good girl, i'm smart and hard working, believe me i'm a good person so is my family but we went through a lot and i feel that i'm old, as if i grew several years over the course of one summer, but sometimes i feel that i'm still a child and i just want to run and play with my friends, some of them were killed by the way and others crossed the borders and i heard that they're now refugees at camps outside Syria, when i pass by the man with his newsstand i read a few headlines and when he let me read more i check names of camps where my friends and some relatives went, it's always sad news that i read about how they're living and suffering... why can't life just go back to the way it was? just the way it used to be... that's all i want.

thank you for taking the time to read my letter, i don't know if this will be my last year at school, i love school, i don't know which day will be my last day of life, i don'g love my life now as before but i hope that one day things will be "normal" or "easy" for my mom and older brother, for me and my little brother, for my relatives and friends, for all Syrians... i count my blessings, they are many, and i know that others are suffering a lot more than me.



  1. You are heard, Riham and so is Laila, much love.

    1. Thanks Kate.
      Wishing all children around the world a safe and enjoyable school year