With the start of the school year and the number of school attacks exceeding 4,000 in war-ravaged Syria, more than 1.7 million children there remain out of school and another 1.3 million are at a risk of dropping out, according to new education data.
“In Syria, children are risking death to go to school. In the past two weeks, nine school-children, aged as young as five, lost their lives in two separate attacks on or near schools,” said UNICEF’s Syria Representative, Hanaa Singer, in a news release issued over the weekend.
The release said that across the country, one in three schools cannot be used because they are either damaged, destroyed, sheltering the internally displaced or are being used for military purposes. Since the war began in 2011, there have been more than 4,000 attacks on schools, it added.
“School should not be a death trap. It should a place where children are protected and able to learn, grow, and develop their skills,” Ms. Singer stressed.
Escalating violence, displacement, increased poverty, and an overstretched and under-resourced education system continue to force children out of school, denying them of their right to education.
In September this year, UNICEF and partners launched a back-to-learning campaign to reach 2.5 million children with school supplies and text books, including 200,000 children living under siege and in hard-to-reach areas. More than 1,200 UNICEF-supported young volunteers are going door-to-door to reach out-of-school children including through alternative learning opportunities.
UNICEF’s work with partners and thanks to generous donors support in education is paying off. A recent assessment shows a drop in the number of out-of-school children from 2.1 million in 2014/2015 to 1.7 million in 2015/2016.
“This is significant progress but is not enough. We need to invest much more so that every child in Syria is in school,” said Ms. Singer. “We urge all parties to the conflict to protect children, schools and all civilians in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” she added.