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Patrick Atack

24 million children without education due to conflict

Nearly 9,000 schools across the Middle East and North Africa are no longer useable [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2016

Around 40 percent of children across Middle East and North Africa's 'crisis zones' are being denied their right to education due to ongoing war and violence.

Nearly 24 million children living in crisis zones in 22 strife-torn countries are being deprived of a school education, threatening their own future and that of their societies.

In late 2015, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that as many as 40 percent of school-age children in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Yemen had not had access to education in the past 12 months.

"Children living in countries affected by conflict have lost their homes, family members, friends, safety, and routine," UNICEF Chief of Education, Jo Bourne, said in a statement.

"Now, unable to learn even the basic reading and writing skills, they are at risk of losing their futures," continued Bourne.

Nearly 9,000 schools across the Middle East and North Africa are no longer useable due to conflicts.

Many are damaged beyond repair, or destroyed while many others are used to shelter people from violence.

Around 53 percent of Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt are out of school, indicating that even after escaping conflict in their home country, their education was still not secure.

It is feared that without sufficient education and access to resources, the issues that these countries currently face could be exacerbated in the future, as the next generation will not be equipped with the tools to re-build the community and economy of their home nations.

School equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the conflict is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with the trauma they have experienced

"School equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the conflict is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with the trauma they have experienced," Bourne said.

Gaza is one of the worst affected regions in terms of the destruction of schools in violent conflict.

During Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, 138 schools were damaged or destroyed.
 
When the 2014-15 school year began, nearly half a million children could not return to school due to this damage.

In previous military action against the Palestinian territory, nearly 250 educational facilities were damaged.

In Sudan, at least three million children cannot attend school due to ongoing conflicts in Darfur and Blue Nile.

Additionally, of the 50,000 children taking refuge in Sudan from violence in South Sudan, at least two-thirds do not receive any form of education.

There is also a significant gender divide in education in this region.

On average, a girl is 25 percent less likely to be in school than a boy.

"We need targeted interventions to reach the families displaced by conflict, the girls forced to stay home and the children obliged to work," said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

We need targeted interventions to reach the families displaced by conflict, the girls forced to stay home and the children obliged to work

The United Nations report called for "sufficient funding for education in emergencies" and national governments in the region to "adopt flexible approaches for accommodating the education needs of conflict-affected children."

"This is what the children want, this is what parents what," UNICEF's Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa, Maria Calivis said.

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