Middle East wars prevent 13 million children going to school

Wars and conflicts in Middle East and North Africa stop more than 13 million children from going to school

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Children of Syrian refugees play at a makeshift camp in an underground station near the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary September 2, 2015

Conflicts and wars across the Middle East and North Africa denies more than 13 million children from attending school this year, the United Nations Children's Fund said in a report issued on Thursday.

The horridly high number leaves those children with shattered dreams of a better future, the UN report said.

"It's no coincidence in that what we see in terms of our TV pictures, the tragic pictures of people crossing on boats to Greece and Italy, very much comes back to the Syrian conflict and [to] the Iraqi conflict to a lesser extent," UNICEF regional director Peter Salama said.

The UNICEF report "Education Under Fire" examined the effect of war violence on school children in nine countries, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya where a generation has grown up out of the educational system since the beginning of the Arab spring in 2011.

Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, countries neighbouring war torn Syria, as well as Sudan and Palestine were also included in the report. 

According to the report, refugees say the education of their children is of top priority, however many receiving countries don’t provide that basic human right.

Attacks on schools in war torn countries are one of the main reasons why many children are out of education. Wrecked buildings are now being used to shelter displaced families or used as bases for combatants, UNICEF said.

In Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya alone, nearly 9,000 schools are unable to be used for education, the report said.

Escalated violence in such regions has stopped parents from sending their children to school, even if the school is not attacked or wrecked, in addition to thousands of teachers abandoning their posts in fear, the report added.

Education systems of receiving countries was not designed to absorb large numbers of refugees, and thus those nations are struggling to enroll refugee children, Salama said.

"Everyone is basically straining at the seams in terms in terms of dealing with this massive crisis, which is not surprising given that it is the biggest population movement since World War Two," he said.

“Children out of school can end up working illegally, often being breadwinners for their family. They are vulnerable to exploitation and can be more easily recruited into armed groups,” he added.

Children are increasingly becoming combatants from a younger age, Salama said, while students and teachers have been killed, kidnapped and arrested, UNICEF's research showed.

"We're on the verge of losing an entire generation of children in the Middle East and North Africa. We must step up, otherwise it will be irreversible and long-term damage we've collectively inflicted upon the children of this region."


TRTWorld and agencies