War keeps 3 million Sudanese children from school: Unicef

Millions of children in Sudan are being denied an education due to ongoing conflict, says a new Unicef report into war and upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa.

Millions of children in Sudan are being denied an education due to ongoing conflict, says a new Unicef report into war and upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa.

Surging conflict and political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa are preventing more than 13 million children from going to school, according to a Unicef report released last week.

The report, Education Under Fire (see link to full report below), focuses on the impact of violence on school children and education systems in nine countries (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, State of Palestine) that have been directly or indirectly impacted by violence.

In Sudan, nearly four decades of war has deprived more than three million children of their schooling, the report says. Conflict has been a major factor pushing boys and girls out of the classroom in Darfur and the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

In addition, Sudan has hosted around 50,000 refugee children from South Sudan who have fled the violence in their country since December 2013. Just one third of these school aged boys and girls receive any education.

According to the report, attacks on schools and education infrastructure – sometimes deliberate – are one key reason why many children do not attend classes across the Middle East and North Africa. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya alone, nearly 9,000 schools are out of use because they have been damaged, destroyed, are being used to shelter displaced civilians or have been taken over by parties to the conflict.

Teachers abandon posts

Other factors include the fear that drives thousands of teachers to abandon their posts, or keeps parents from sending their children to school because of what might happen to them along the way – or at school itself.

In Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, more than 700,000 Syrian refugee children are unable to attend school because the overburdened national education infrastructure cannot cope with the extra student load.

“The destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region,” said Peter Salama, Regional Director for Unicef in the Middle East and North Africa. “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.”

The report highlights a range of initiatives – including the use of self-learning and expanded learning spaces – that help children learn even in the most desperate of circumstances. But it says that the funding such work receives is not commensurate with the burgeoning needs, despite the fact that children and parents caught up in conflict overwhelmingly identify education as their number one priority.

In particular, the No Lost Generation Initiative, launched by Unicef and other partners in 2013 to galvanise more international backing for the education and protection needs of children affected by the Syria crisis deserves more support, the report says.

In addition, the reports calls on the international community, host governments, policy makers, the private sector, and other partners to reduce the number of children out of school through the expansion of informal education services especially for vulnerable children. It also calls on them to provide more support to national education systems in conflict-hit countries and host communities to expand learning spaces, recruit and train teachers and provide learning materials and advocate for the recognition and certification of non-formal education in countries affected by the Syria crisis.