The ongoing civil war in Syria is wreaking havoc on more than just those fighting for opposing sides. According to a report by the United Nations, in some parts of the country, children’s education has come to a virtual halt as school buildings are either destroyed, damaged or converted into civilian shelters for those left dislocated by the conflict.
The report, authored by Unicef, said that families were also reluctant to allow their children to go to school due to the fear for their safety. In Aleppo, for example, a city that has been a non-stop warzone since last summer, the attendance rate at school is less than 6%.
Similar numbers are being reported from other cities where fighting has been ongoing and severe, including Idlib and Dara’a. The two cities were the launching point of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and have therefore had the worst of it in the ongoing war.
The report provided a glimpse into an often overlooked deprivation confronting the civilian population, where the more basic problems of security, homelessness, hunger and illness have reached crisis levels in many places. The United Nations has estimated that at least 70,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011, nearly a million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, more than two million people are internally displaced and more than four million are in urgent need of assistance.
At least 20% of all school buildings in the country have suffered some kind of damage thus causing extensive overcrowding in schools that remain intact. According to the report, some school leaders report having to teach up to 100 students in every classroom, in part due to lack of space and in part because teachers are not showing up for work in great numbers as well.
The report represents the situation on the ground as it was in December of last year, so there’s every possibility that the situation has deteriorated further since then. According to an activist Omar Abu Layla, 75% schools in the country no longer open their doors on a daily basis, forcing parents to seek alternatives for educating their kids. Adhoc schooling continues in local mosques or other buildings which have not sustained as much damage.
Others said they have sought to take education into their own hands, especially in areas where schools are unsafe. In Idlib Province, for example, a group of activists has started a radio station called “Colors FM,” featuring a daily 90-minute broadcast aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 10 who have been unable to attend classes.