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March 05, 2013

UN: Syrian Schools Devastated by War

by Lisa Schlein

A U.N. agency reports hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are missing out on school because of war and the damage and destruction of schools across the country.

The United Nations Children’s Fund reports that nearly two years of war in Syria is having a devastating impact on the ability of children to get an education.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said one-fifth of the country’s schools - an estimated 2,400 - are damaged, and more than 1,500 schools are being used as shelters.  

“In cities where the conflict has been most intense, some children have already missed out on almost two years of schooling. Attendance has dropped to as low as six percent in Aleppo, 38 percent in Idlib and 70 percent in Daraa," she said. "Some students often are just showing up twice a week. In areas hosting high numbers of displaced persons such as Homs city, classes are overcrowded, sometimes hosting up to 100 students.”  

Mercado said more than 110 teachers and school staff have been killed in the conflict and others are not reporting to work. She also notes that some schools are being used by armed forces in the conflict.

Still, Mercado said, Syrians want to see their children go to school.

“The assessment underlined the enormous importance Syrian families place on education, with many parents singling out schooling as their top priority.  It also notes that many parents are now reluctant to send their children to school because of fears for their safety,” she said.

Mercado said UNICEF is supporting more than 170 school clubs in several cities. She said the clubs give 40,000 children much needed remedial education and allows them to take part in recreational activities.

UNICEF aims to provide one million Syrian children with school materials, make it possible for displaced children to continue their education, and to offer 300,000 children psychological counseling.