DAMASCUS, Syria – As the Syrian Civil War nears the three-year mark, a UNICEF report finds that education is also under attack. Since 2011, Syrian rebels have been fighting the government, trying to oust the ruling Ba’ath party. Education is collateral damage, as almost 3 million Syrian children have been forced to leave school.
Syrian children are some of the most effected by the armed conflict. According to the UNICEF report, titled Education Interrupted, the lives of more than 5 million children are at risk.
Before fighting broke out, primary school attendance rates were at 97% in Syria. Secondary school attendance was at 67%. These numbers made the country a regional leader in education. But after nearly three years of violence, more than 4,000 schools have been destroyed, damaged, or turned into shelters.
Within Syria, increasing violence, destruction of schools, and the flight of teachers has left many parents with no options but to keep their children at home. According to reports, there have been over 500 cases of killings and kidnappings specifically targeting school teachers and university professors.
There have also been cases of missiles and bomb specifically targeting kindergartens, schools, and universities.
As a result of the violence, over 1.2 million Syrian children are now refugees abroad. Although safe from conflict, only 34% of school-aged Syrian refugees worldwide are enrolled in school. This means that 500,000-600,000 refugee children do not have access to formal education.
The lack of education for Syrian refugee children is not for lack of effort. Massive efforts from host countries, UN organizations, and NGOs are falling short simply because of the large, and growing, need.
Lebanon and Jordan are receiving the greatest numbers of Syrian refugees, and the school systems are not able to accommodate such a large influx of students. Currently, one in every four school-aged child in Lebanon is Syrian. The UNICEF report calls for a doubling in assistance from the international community to help host-countries accommodate more students.
The report also suggests protecting educational infrastructure within Syria, and exploring alternative routes of education, such as home-schooling, to help meet need.
If efforts to get school-aged children back into classrooms are not ramped up, the effects of the conflict will stretch into the future. There is fear that the lack of education could create a “lost generation” of Syrians – nearly an entire generation without a complete education.
“We argue that even among the many challenges facing Syria’s children, ensuring their continued access to learning is an essential platform for protection, social stabilization and economic recovery, and one the world cannot ignore,” state UNICEF authors.
– Claire Karban