ALEPPO, Syria - In Syria's war-ravaged city of Aleppo, Abu Hussein hurries along little Ali, who has stopped just a few steps from school to buy a bag of potato chips. "You'll be late!" he chides.
Ali is one of thousands going back to school in the city thanks to educators like Abu Hussein, who heads a school in the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone on the northern city's outskirts. "Reopening the schools is an important thing to do," Abu Hussein says. "It gives a sense of normality even if the war continues a few kilometres (miles) away."
"The children of this area have been abandoned to their fate and we decided to look into the possibility of opening schools in the industrial zone so they wouldn't lose any more schooling."
When the Syrian civil war arrived in Aleppo, in July 2012, most of its schools and universities were forced to close.
During the winter, clandestine and makeshift institutions were set up by rebel forces, allowing some students to continue learning.
But "most of these children have lost an entire year of school," says Abu Hussein, a grizzled man in his thirties whose school in a former factory struggles to cater to several hundred students. "We don't have enough books, one for every three students, and those we do have are old editions from years ago."
In the nearby Masakan Hanano district, another school set up by rebels and a Syrian NGO is also struggling to find supplies for 200 students.
"We need notebooks, pencils and other school materials. But we believe that we must resume normal classes so that the youngsters are not spending 24 hours a day consumed by the war and the bombings," says headmaster Abu Mohammed.