Lebanon News

Report outlines education emergency in Syria

A child sells cigarettes in eastern Ghouta, Damascus, December 10, 2013. Picture taken December 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Ammar Al-Erbeeni)

BEIRUT: The dire state of education in Syria threatens the entire region, a new report says, and urgent global action is needed to “rescue the schooling of a generation.”

The report, issued jointly by the U.N.’s children and refugee bodies – UNICEF and UNHCR – and charities World Vision and Save the Children, details the destruction of schools, the dangers of still attending, even when schools are still open, and the vast upheaval caused to children.

“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,” it warns.

Unless immediate and concerted action is taken, it adds, the proportion of uneducated youth will rise, which will in turn “perpetuate the costs of conflict for decades to come. Every Syrian child out of school is a lifetime’s potential under threat.”

Before the Syrian crisis began the country was one of the regional leaders in terms of education, with the government’s education budget having increased from 15 to 19 percent of GDP between 2004 and 2009.

But now, “nearly three years of brutal conflict in Syria have reversed more than a decade of progress,” the report, “Syria Crisis: Education Interrupted,” says. Inside Syria 2.2 million children are no longer in school, and two thirds of refugee children are not attending classes. Over 4,000 schools have been destroyed or turned into shelters for displaced people.

Even where schools are still open, many parents have decided to keep their children at home. The report describes how, “Many children have witnessed horrific scenes of violence: Some have seen classmates and teachers killed in front of their own eyes ... Schoolchildren as young as 10 have described being arrested or detained on the way to school, targeted by snipers, or caught in the crossfire.”

The report recommends urgent global action to address the global crisis, as: “When peace comes, children will be the ones to lead their communities toward a brighter future – a task they can only shoulder if they have been able to continue their education.”

The authors urge long-term planning for the education of displaced children; that host countries be adequately supported in this, and international investment doubled and that alternative and innovative educational programs be promoted. Ultimately though, the report says, “the collapse of Syria’s education system can only be halted by political commitment from parties to the conflict.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 14, 2013, on page 10.

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