view counter

Middle EastLost generation: Wars prevent 13m children in Middle East, north Africa from going to school

Published 3 September 2015

The UN children’s fund, in a report issued earlier today (Thursday) said that conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa have been preventing more than thirteen million children from attending school, undermining their hopes for a better future. “We’re on the verge of losing an entire generation of children in the Middle East and North Africa,” UNICEF regional director said.

The UN children’s fund, in a report issued earlier today (Thursday) said that conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa have been preventing more than thirteen million children from attending school, undermining their hopes for a better future.

The UNICEF report, Education Under Fire, examined the impact of violence and war on schoolchildren in nine countries and territories, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, where an entire generation is growing up outside the education system.

“It’s no coincidence in that what we see in terms of our TV pictures, the tragic pictures of people crossing on boats to Greece and Italy, very much comes back to the Syrian conflict and [to] the Iraqi conflict to a lesser extent,” UNICEF’s regional director, Peter Salama, said.

Refugees who try to get into EU countries often say that educating their children is one of the main reasons for why they have left their home countries on a perilous journey to Europe.

The Guardian reports that the UNICEF study also looked at Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey — all neighbors of Syria, and where about four millions Syrian refugees have fund temporary shelter — as well as Sudan and Palestine.

The report found that attacks on schools are one of the main reasons why many children cannot go to classes. Schools which have not been destroyed are often used to shelter displaced families or as outposts for combatants.

In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, nearly 9,000 schools are no longer used for education.

In addition, thousands of teachers had stopped coming to school out of fear, so families no longer send their children to school.

Salama noted that the school systems in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon cannot absorb the refugee children because the numbers are just too large.

“Everyone is basically straining at the seams in terms of dealing with this massive crisis, which is not surprising given that it is the biggest population movement since [the second world war],” he said.

Many of the millions of children who no longer go to school end up working illegally, often being breadwinners for their family. They are also susceptible to being recruited into armed groups.

UNICEF’s research showed children were increasingly becoming combatants at a younger age.

“We’re on the verge of losing an entire generation of children in the Middle East and North Africa,” Salama said. “We must step up, otherwise it will be irreversible and long-term damage we’ve collectively inflicted upon the children of this region.”