Recent school closures in Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zour governorates and parts of rural Aleppo in Syria have disrupted the education of some 670,000 children of primary and lower-high school age, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported today.
Briefing the press in Geneva today, UNICEF’s Christophe Boulierac warned that as the conflict enters its fifth year, 2015 will offer little chance for children’s education.
Between January and December 2014 alone there were at least 68 attacks on schools across Syria, reported Mr. Boulierac. Those attacks reportedly killed at least 160 children and injured 343. But the real numbers are likely to be higher.
By the end of 2014 the conflict had affected more than eight million children, 5.6 million children inside the country and 1.7 million children living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and other countries in North Africa.
For its part, the agency continues to call on parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibility to protect children, schools and other civilian infrastructure, a call which was repeated with even greater urgency as a new year began.
Now more than ever, children in Syria face the most terrible threats to their safety, wellbeing and their education, said Mr. Boulierac.
Responding to a question about the total number of children out of school in Syria, Mr. Boulierac said the latest UNICEF Education Sector analysis, carried out in partnership with the Syrian Ministry of Education estimated that between 2.1 and 2.4 million children in Syria were out of school and/or not attending school regularly.
Another journalist asked who controlled the three governorates where schools had been forced to close to which Mr. Boulierac replied that the Islamic State was believed to have control in the areas where these schools are located.
However, although the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had ordered the closure of schools in the affected governorates, UNICEF was not necessarily reporting that the ISIL had full control of that region, he clarified, since the situation on the ground kept changing.
Responding to another question about reasons for the school closures, Mr. Boulierac said in December the ISIL issued a decree ordering education in areas under its control to be stopped, because it wanted to change school curricula.