With Labor Day weekend behind us, whatever students weren’t already in school, are now back. For the next ten months, students (hopefully) will be challenged, motivated, and pushed to succeed not only the classroom, but also on the athletic field and in extracurricular activities. However, not all students have the option of going back school.
Education is vital to the success of countries, and as this school year begins, children across the Middle East are in jeopardy of losing another year in the classroom because of the ongoing conflicts.
For children in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, and Gaza, the effects of war have had a major impact on their education systems. Last week, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, published a chilling report on education in those regions. The report stated that nearly 9,000 schools have been deemed “unusable” and over 13 million children (40% of the affected area’s school-age population) are unable to attend school. Dr. Peter Salama, the Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa shed a light on this pressing issue: “Five or 10 years ago, it was unusual to have even 10 percent of the school-age populations in the region out of school but now it’s 40 percent. Their educational achievements are going to be quite low, and these are the future professionals in these societies.”
The long-term repercussions of war are frightening for many reasons, and the impact on education is one that people are beginning to focus on. In Syria, students who would be in third or fourth grade have rarely been in a classroom. So if students aren’t in the classroom, where are they? Dr. Salama explains: “If children are not in school, they are often working, and exploited in hazardous jobs. A parallel trend is increased recruitment of children into military and paramilitary organizations.”
So not only are children not given the opportunity to learn, but then they are recruited to join in the war, or given extremely low wages for work that is often dangerous. This trend will continue to get worse as long as there is unrest in the Middle East. As an educator, I'm depressed since most of those children will not receive the gift of education and find the joy in learning. I’m not sure what we can do about Syria's education system, but if anyone is interested in helping out those in Syria, check out ShelterBox. From their website, "ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis.If there are families in need of emergency shelter, ShelterBox does everything it can to help them rebuild their lives."
The problems in Syria are far from over, and if children continue to be denied an education, then the entire region faces a
precarious future. As the Unicef report stated, "“With more than 13 million children already driven from classrooms by conflict, it is no exaggeration to say that the educational prospects of a generation of children are in the balance. The forces that are crushing individual lives and futures are also destroying the prospects for an entire region.”