GENEVA - The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) cites children’s education as one of the prime victims of Syria’s ever-worsening war.
The agency estimates between 1.3 million and 1.6 million children throughout the country are not regularly attending school.
While there are conflicting reports about the scale of the current school closures, UNICEF spokesman Christof Boulierac said there are indications some attacks against schools are deliberate.
“Sixty-eight attacks against schools in Syria from January to December 2014, killing 160 children and injuring 343,” Boulierac said. “I would like to highlight that this assessment is probably underestimated for the reasons I have just mentioned, which are the lack of access and the difficulties in general to get accurate data in Syria.”
UNICEF reported more than half of all school closures are in just three of Syria’s governorates. It said education is disrupted for 670,000 children of primary and lower high school age in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour governorates and parts of rural Aleppo.
Boulierac said these governorates are largely under the control of Islamic State militants.
“There were some reports that circulated and, according to which, the Islamic State wanted to change the curriculum of schools. And, therefore, asked the teaching staff of schools to redevelop new curriculum and that was one of the reasons. Of course, there are other schools that have to close because of insecurity of attacks,” he said.
UNICEF said in times of conflict, schools are the only means of stability and structure provided to children. It said children now, more than ever, are in desperate need of resuming this last vestige of normalcy in their shattered lives as the war in Syria continues with little resolution in sight.