The Syria conflict has been characterized by the UN Secretary-General as the largest humanitarian and peace and security crisis in the world today. The conflict has taken a heavy toll on children, who have suffered immensely amidst violence, destruction, and deprivation.
As another new school year is set to begin, almost three million children are out of school, including 2.3 million children who are still inside Syria. School enrollment rates, which were close to 100% before the conflict began, have plummeted to less than 50% on average and are even lower where heavy fighting has taken place for a prolonged period. Among displaced children, enrollment is even lower at 17%. In Aleppo Governorate, where 40% of schools have been shelled at least once in non- government controlled eastern areas, primary school enrollment dropped from 97.5% in 2011 to less than 10% by March 2013, a situation that is damaging not only to these children’s future prospects, but also to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.
Now in its fifth year, the Syria conflict is a crisis of protection that has been exacerbated by the vastly underfunded response to the needs of the estimated 5.6 million children affected. Education is one of the most underfunded sectors with the result that hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on school. Education not only supports children’s wellbeing and development, but has wider impacts on society’s stability and growth. Evidence has shown that education reduces the likelihood of conflict by increasing income opportunities and life choices for young people. The continued denial of the right to education in Syria threatens to exacerbate the cycle of conflict in the country, and across the region, as young people face the prospect of futures without employment and the ever increasing possibility of recruitment by armed groups.
If continued access to quality education is to be achieved, funding must be accompanied by increased pressure on parties to the conflict to cease attacks on and end the military use of schools. The combined effect of attacks on school facilities, students and teachers, as well as the use of schools as bases, staging posts, detention centers and for other military purposes has been crippling, resulting in deaths and injuries, school closures and damage and destruction of school buildings and educational materials. Attacks on and military use of schools also negatively impact the psychosocial wellbeing of children and teaching staff and contribute to high drop-out rates as parents fear sending their children to school because of the risks to their safety in or on the way to school.
This briefing provides an overview of the scale of attacks on and military use of schools in northern Syria and their associated impacts on children, drawing on first-hand information gathered through our programs in-country. Based on Save the Children’s experience of supporting education programs in Syria, the briefing also provides recommendations for the international community and for donors to ensure that schools in Syria are safe places for children to study and develop and that the continuation of quality education is supported. Over the last year, Save the Children conducted interviews with children impacted by attacks on schools in Syria in which children spoke about the terror that they experienced – their words are included throughout this briefing.