NEW YORK (March 5, 2013) – Nearly two years into the Syria crisis, the escalating level of violence is threatening the education of hundreds of thousands of children, a UNICEF assessment says.
One fifth of the country’s schools have suffered direct physical damage or are being used to shelter displaced people. In cities where the conflict has been most intense, some children have already missed out on nearly two years of schooling.
“The education system in Syria is reeling from the impact of violence,” said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Syria Representative. “Syria once prided itself on the quality of its schools. Now it’s seeing the gains it made over the years rapidly reversed.”
UNICEF’s education assessment—conducted in December 2012—notes that many parents are now reluctant to send their children to school, fearing for their safety.
The assessment found that at least 2,400 schools have been damaged or destroyed, including 772 in Idlib, 300 in Aleppo and another 300 in Deraa; more than 1,500 schools are being used as shelters for displaced people; more than 110 teachers and other staff have been killed; and many others are no longer reporting for work. In Idlib, for example, teacher attendance is no more than 55 percent, and in Aleppo, child attendance rates have dropped to as low as 6 percent. In addition, some schools have been used by armed forces and groups involved in the conflict.
The assessment says that schools in Idlib, Aleppo and Deraa—where fighting has been particularly severe—are among the worst affected. As a result, schoolchildren are often failing to turn up for class, sometimes attending only twice a week.
In areas hosting high numbers of displaced families, classes are overcrowded, sometimes hosting up to 100 students.
“Being in school makes children feel safe and protected and leaves parents hopeful about their children’s future,” said Abdel-Jelil. “That’s why so many parents we talk to single out education as their top priority.”
Working to address children’s learning needs inside Syria, UNICEF is supporting more than 170 school clubs in Homs, Deraa, Rural Damascus, Tartous, Lattakia, Hama and Quneitra. The clubs allow some 40,000 children to receive much-needed remedial education and take part in recreational activities. UNICEF is also providing teaching and learning supplies and is rehabilitating damaged schools.
However, an additional $1 million is needed to keep the clubs open until the end of May. Funding shortfalls are also preventing the provision of urgently-needed pre-fabricated classrooms, repairs and rehabilitation of learning spaces, and the provision of teaching and learning materials.
Overall, UNICEF needs $20 million for its education programs in Syria during the first six months of the current year, of which it has received no more than $3 million.
UNICEF Syria’s priorities in education include providing one million children with school materials; increasing access to education for 150,000 children, particularly among the internally displaced; providing 300,000 children with emotional support, and providing pre-fabricated classrooms to increase attendance and support the resumption of educational activities.
How to help
For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.