SEATTLE — Syria, the Middle Eastern country that borders Turkey and Iraq, has struggled with civil war for the past six years. Several countries, including the United States, have been involved in the conflict at some point. More than 400,000 people have died as a result, and millions have suffered the damaging consequences of war. The internal struggle has devastated several parts of the country’s infrastructure, but education in Syria has taken a particularly worrisome blow.
Before the war, the Syrian government created a plan to promote literacy that it enforced with remarkable dedication. Parents were obligated to send all children to school, regardless of gender, and were able to do so for free. If parents refused to educate their daughters, the government could take legal action against them. Almost 100 percent of children were enrolled in school before the conflict began and started to take its toll on education in Syria. Syria used to be one of the most educated countries in the Middle East.
Since the war began in 2011, more than 33 percent of schools have been shut down. More than a million children living in Syria are not attending school, and millions of Syrian refugee children who have been forced to flee the country are also not receiving any education. Due to unrest, many boys join military groups or gangs in order to make money and establish a level of security. By 2013 alone, two years into the civil war, a little more than 60 percent of children were enrolled in primary school and 44 percent were enrolled in secondary school. Both of these statistics are nearly 30 percent lower than enrollment statistics in 2004.
Girls face a substantial and unique challenge to pursuing education in Syria. According to the United Nations, the civil war in Syria has been characterized by the assault of women. The UN has named rape as a “weapon of war,” and sexual enslavement is a real danger for women and girls living in Syria.
According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school than their male counterparts. Fear of gender-based violence and slavery has resulted in fewer girls receiving an education, as children often have to travel several miles to the nearest school. Child marriage is also common, and girls are extremely unlikely to get an education in Syria if they are married.
These statistics on education in Syria are alarming and, if left unchecked, will cause significant damage to the country and countries around them. However, education could be used as a tool to help lift Syria out of the destructive patterns of war and lead it to a brighter future.
– Julia Mccartney
Learn about the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act