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Syrian Students on the Frontline of Conflict

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 6 2015 (IPS) - While millions around the world are celebrating the dawn of a new year and the promise of change, hundreds of thousands of Syrian children have little reason to hope that 2015 will bring better days.

A spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told reporters in Geneva today that some 670,000 primary and lower-high school students are being denied an education, due to school closures across parts of the northern city of Aleppo and in the Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zour governorates.

Christophe Boulierac said that the order to close the schools was made by members of the Islamic State, though he was uncertain whether or not the militant group had complete control over the areas in questions.

For school-going children and their parents, however, these details are not of the utmost concern. More pressing is finding ways to ensure the education of an entire generation, as the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year.

UNICEF estimates that some 160 students were killed and a further 343 injured in the roughly 68 attacks on Syrian schools last year. These are only the official statistics; other groups believe the real number could be much higher.

“In addition to lack of school access, attacks on schools, teachers and students are further horrific reminders of the terrible price Syria’s children are paying in a crisis approaching its fifth year,” Hanaa Singer, UNICEF’s representative in Syria, said in a statement.

“Access to education is a right that should be sustained for all children, no matter where they live or how difficult the circumstances in which they live,” Singer added. “Schools are the only means of stability, structure and routine that the Syrian children need more than ever in times of this horrific conflict.”

In total, the war in Syria has taken a toll on over eight million children, of which 5.6 million are still living inside the country while 1.7 million are refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa.

This past September, Save the Children reported that nearly 2.8 million Syrian students were being kept out of school, since the conflict had destroyed a total of 3,400 schools.

The charity labeled education as a “deadliest pursuit” for children and teachers; schools are often the targets of airstrikes and shelling, while others have been occupied for military purposes, it said.

Enrolment rates have nearly halved from close to 100 percent when the deadly conflict began five years ago. The death toll now stands at some 190,000.


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