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UN: War Keeping 2M Syrian Children Out of School

FILE - Students are seen taking exams in Hama, Syria, May 10, 2014.
FILE - Students are seen taking exams in Hama, Syria, May 10, 2014.

The U.N. children’s fund reports more than two million children are unable to attend school in Syria because of war and violence. UNICEF says another 400,000 children are at risk of dropping out of school this year because of escalating fighting and displacement.

Before the war, Syria had achieved near universal education. Literacy rates had reached more than 90 percent. Now in its fifth year of war, the educational achievements have been wiped out.

The U.N. children’s fund reports nearly one third of Syria’s 6.4 million school-aged children are not going to class. It says some children have never been inside a classroom. Others have lost up to four years of education because of conflict, violence and displacement.

UNICEF reports 5,000 schools cannot be used because they are destroyed or damaged. Some others, it says, are sheltering displaced families or are being used by the military.

UNICEF spokesman Christof Boulierac says another problem is the lack of teachers. He notes 52,000 teachers — that is more than one-quarter of Syria’s teachers --- have left their posts, further diminishing educational prospects for millions of students.

“In the light of the refugee crisis, we are convinced that one of the reasons why we are seeing people going on these dangerous trips to Europe is also because they are looking for better educational opportunities for their children. If parents get the education they need for their children, it will help them in staying in their country," said Boulierac.

In an effort to prevent a total collapse of Syria’s education system, UNICEF says it is developing self-learning programs for children unable to access schools.

For the first time since the war started, the agency has rolled out an informal education system for hundreds of thousands of children who are in hard-to-reach areas of the country. It also includes an accelerated program for children on the move

Boulierac says UNICEF has many local partners working on the ground who can reach around three million children. He says this wide network of people will provide school supplies and textbooks to students who have missed out on years of schooling.