On Wednesday, January 24, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that approximately 2.4 million children in Syria are currently not attending school.
Released on the occasion of the International Day of Education, observed on January 24th, the report covers all regions of Syria. The disclosed figures indicate that the out-of-school children constitute nearly half of the total school-age population, which stands at 5.52 million. The age range of these non-attending children spans from 5 to 17 years.
UNICEF expresses concern over the likelihood of a further increase in the number of children discontinuing their education, placing them at risk of permanent dropout due to prolonged periods outside the educational system. The extended absence makes it challenging for them to compensate for missed school years, with some children having already lost a decade of education.
The organization warns that these vulnerable children may become susceptible to various risks, including child labour, early and forced marriages, human trafficking, and recruitment into armed conflicts.
In Syria, one-third of schools are no longer utilized for educational purposes. This is attributed to factors such as destruction or damage, repurposing for sheltering displaced individuals, or military use. Consequently, the current educational landscape hampers school rehabilitation efforts and obstructs children’s access to education. Overcrowded classrooms become commonplace, and the departure of tens of thousands of teachers and education workers from the country further exacerbates the situation.
Right to education
The annual report released by the Syrian Network for Human Rights on January 16 underscored persistent violations against children, encompassing the denial of education and the deliberate targeting of educational facilities.
The protracted armed conflict has robbed an entire generation, or more, of their childhood. Safeguarding children’s rights, ensuring their access to education, and addressing their psychological needs are crucial for Syria’s future.
The earthquake on February 6, 2023, significantly impacted the educational infrastructure in the northwestern region of Syria. A report by Save the Children on June 15, 2023, revealed that 54% of schools and 37% of teaching and learning spaces were damaged. The total number of impaired educational buildings reached 822.
Commencing in September 2023, the 2023-2024 school year in the northwestern regions of Syria faced considerable challenges. The escalation of hostilities substantially hampered the access to education services for nearly 2.2 million school-age children, as reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in November 2023. Approximately one million of these children were estimated to be out of school.
OCHA reported that 57% of children lacked access to primary school, and a staggering 80% had no access to secondary school. Frequent interruptions in the education process occurred for children attending school, particularly during periods of military escalation and ongoing economic hardship.
The challenges extended to educators as well. In Idleb, about 25% of teachers (2,380 out of 10,853 assessed) did not receive salaries, and those who were salaried often needed to engage in other professions due to the exorbitant cost of living, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.