Surging conflict and political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa are preventing more than 13 million children from going to school, according to a UNICEF report released today.
The report, “Education Under Fire” focuses on the impact of violence on schoolchildren and education systems in nine countries* that have been directly or indirectly impacted by violence.
Attacks on schools and education infrastructure – sometimes deliberate – are one key reason why many children do not attend classes. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya alone, nearly 9,000 schools are out of use because they have been damaged, destroyed, are being used to shelter displaced civilians or have been taken over by parties to the conflict.
Other factors include the fear that drives thousands of teachers to abandon their posts, or keeps parents from sending their children to school because of what might happen to them along the way – or at school itself.
In Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, more than 700,000 Syrian refugee children are unable to attend school because the overburdened national education infrastructure cannot cope with the extra student load.
“The destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region,” said Peter Salama, Regional Director for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa. “It’s not just the physical damage being done to schools, but the despair felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered.”
The report highlights a range of initiatives – including the use of self-learning and expanded learning spaces – that help children learn even in the most desperate of circumstances. But it says that the funding such work receives is not commensurate with the burgeoning needs, despite the fact that children and parents caught up in conflict overwhelmingly identify education as their number one priority.
In particular, the No Lost Generation Initiative, launched by UNICEF and other partners in 2013 to galvanize more international backing for the education and protection needs of children affected by the Syria crisis deserves more support, the report says.
In addition, the reports calls on the international community, host governments, policy makers, the private sector and other partners to:
Reduce the number of children out of school through the expansion of informal education services especially for vulnerable children
Provide more support to national education systems in conflict-hit countries and host communities to expand learning spaces, recruit and train teachers and provide learning materials
In countries affected by the Syria crisis, advocate for the recognition and certification of non-formal Education services.