Political upheaval and conflict across the Middle East and North Africa have resulted in 14 million children being kept from school. UN’s children’s fund, UNICEF, says the regional unrest is destroying young people’s hopes and dreams and makes it hard for these states to rebuild their nations. UNICEF has called on the international community to prioritize Middle East education funding.
A recent UNICEF study on the education systems of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Palestinian territories reveals that education is directly and indirectly affected by unrest, with the young generation being the most severely affected.
Nearly 2.7 million children from Syria are denied education while Iraq counts 3 million school-age children out of the classroom. Libya counts 2 million, Sudan 3.1 million and Yemen tallied nearly 3 million children out of school.
“With more than 13 million children already driven from classrooms by conflict, it is no exaggeration to say that the education prospects of a generation of children are in the balance,” UNICEF said.
Peter Salama, regional director for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa, said that the consequences are educational, economic and emotional:
“The destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region. It’s not just the physical damage being done to schools, but the despair felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered.”
About 9,000 schools in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya cannot open due to the conflict in these states, while one in four schools in Syria have been closed for more than 4 year. About 52,200 teachers and 523 school counsellors are no longer at their designated posts, the UNICEF report states.
Syria’s children are running the risk of becoming a lost generation, which is a generation that’s denied the right to education and by extension the opportunity to rebuild their country. As UNICEF highlights, conflict-trapped parents and children say education is their number one priority.
Attacks on schools and educators in the region are also abundant, UNICEF reports. In 2014, 214 school attacks in Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Yemen have been recorded, Education Under Fire reveals.
One of the worst school attacks took place in Yemen where 13 staff and four children were murdered during an assault in the city of Amran.
“The killing, abduction and arbitrary arrest of students, teachers and education personnel have become commonplace” UNICEF notes.
The conflict in the state of Sudan has left 1.2 million children under five severely malnourished and 2.9 million children away from school.
UNICEF says that an extra $300 million is needed to improve access to education in the Middle East and North Africa.