Capoeira4Refugees for Education in Al-Raqqa

By: Marianna Castaldo

Amidst the devastating consequences of the Syrian War, Capoeira4Refugees was able to assist 130.000 students and many young locals and families in Al-Raqqa renovating and giving back safe learning spaces to the community, where a sense of normalcy could have brought back.

Among the many, tragic consequences of the 10-year long conflict, Syria has also faced a dramatic education crisis. Before the crisis, Syria had a strong education system with almost universal primary school enrolment and 70% of children attending secondary school. However, the worsening crisis put an entire generation of children at risk of being lost to and within a cycle of violence. To better understand the gravity of the current education system, and the impact of this war on families and, more importantly, on children, here are some relevant statistics: 2.1 to 2.4 million children are currently out of the education system in Syria, which is approximately half (5-17 years old) children that are eligible for primary and secondary education in the current school year, and another million of those in school are at risk of dropping out2. In 2014, Syria had the second-worst enrolment rate in the world according to the OCHA, Humanitarian Bulletin Syria Issue 2 June 2015. Furthermore, 2 out of 5 schools in Syria cannot be used because they are damaged, destroyed, shelter displaced families, or being used for military purposes. The absence of safe and protective learning spaces, coupled with a shortage of teachers, textbooks, as well as adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, have all become obstacles to children’s access to an education.

Specifically, in Al-Raqqa, when ISIS took hold between 2014 and 2017, all schools and educational institutions were closed. After the IS forces left, 44% of schools had suffered damage and destruction. According to a report published in March 2021 by the United Nations “REACH” initiative, only half of the children between the ages of 6 and 12, and 12% of children between the ages of 13 and 17, currently receive an education.

Incoherence with our core values and our mission to bring fun, resilience, and happiness to the lives of children in conflict zones, we at Capoeira4Refugees believe in the necessity and priority of education in areas of conflict. Education is life-saving for affected communities and families because it can provide a sense of normalcy to children’s lives, as well as psychosocial support, and it can also strengthen their survival skills and coping mechanisms while saving young children and adolescents from exploitation and harm4; last but not least, education gives hope in a better future which, in the end, is the foundation for building a stronger nation.

These are among the reasons why we at Capoeira4Refugees have been working hard and closely with local agents of change, that are part of our localized network, to restore and bring back some of these safe spaces for children and families, being able to rehabilitate 10 schools and 4 parks in the sole city of Al-Raqqa.

Through the “Al-Raqqa Community Engagement Project”, we have leveraged and engaged our unique and strong network of young people and community leaders, whose development we have started in 2012, with the sole intent to identify and support local community voices and needs.

Over the past 9 years, in partnership with local community leaders, we were able to:

  • run large community events to involve families and children affected by the war
  • develop and run psychological programs with over 200 traumatized children
  • restore critical infrastructure and services, with a specific focus on child-friendly and safe learning spaces – which include school buildings and community spaces – through cleaning, painting, building works, repairing of broken systems and artwork.
  • run large community events to involve families and children affected by the war
  • develop and run psychological programs with over 200 traumatized children
  • restore critical infrastructure and services, with a specific focus on child-friendly and safe learning spaces – which include school buildings and community spaces – through cleaning, painting, building works, repairing of broken systems and artwork.

We at C4R aim to keep working closely with the local communities and their leaders to strengthen and expand our network which, in the end, will bring us closer to families and children in Al-Raqqa, and in Syria, to let them express their needs and priorities, and support their achievement. Our goal remains to continue with our hard work to bring back learning safe spaces, restoring the educational system back to how it was to the community so that they families and children can feel a sense of stability and develop strong skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their life!


1.Assessment Working Group for Syria, ‘Syria Integrated Needs Assessment (SINA)’, December 2013.
2. Schools under Attack in Syria. A monitoring report on the impact of attacks on Syrian schools by the by the Southern Turkey Education Cluster (Syria response) https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/FINAL-Education-Under-Attack_STurkey-Briefing-Paper_2015-09-03.pdf
3.https://www.unicefusa.org/infographic-education-crisis-syria
4.Schools under Attack in Syria. A monitoring report on the impact of attacks on Syrian schools by the by the Southern Turkey Education Cluster (Syria response): https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/FINAL-Education-Under-Attack_STurkey-Briefing-Paper_2015-09-03.pdf