Millions of Children Kept Out of School in War-Ravaged Middle East

Millions of Children Kept Out of School in War-Ravaged Middle East

It is a commonplace that the chief victims of war are children, but sometimes this takes unusual forms.

FidesNews Agency has reported that in Gaza where schools were set to reopen onAugust 24 the date has been moved to September 14, and the reopening stillis not certain. This has affected more than 240,000 students.

Hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq’s northern Kurdishregion are likewise facing an “educationemergency” after being forced from their homes, with hundreds ofschools used to shelter displaced families.

Unlike in Gaza, the Kurdish regional government says schoolswill open as planned next Wednesday but, many of the students have beendisplaced and are no longer present. Moreover, schools are now occupied withrefugees and it isn’t apparent where they are to go.

“It is a major disaster for children,” said BrendaHaiplik, an education expert from UNICEF.

“Education is life-saving. After a child has been tohell and back, education gives him or her an opportunity to go forward. Withoutthat, the future is dim.”

The United Nations says up to 1.8 million Iraqis have beendisplaced since January, with around 850,000 seeking refuge in autonomous,three-province Kurdistan.

In Iraq more than halfa million among the Iraqis forced from their homes in the face of theadvance of Jihadist militants are of school age. In Iraqi Kurdistan alone,about 190,000 children will not go to school. In all Iraq some 2,000 schoolsserve as shelters for displaced families.

In the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq, more than 700,000refugees have escaped the devastation wrought by ISIS since early June byfleeing into the region controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Thetremendous influx of displaced people is straining the resources of the KRG andKurdish NGOs like the Barzani Foundation, but people from all sectors of lifeare coming forward to help those who have had to escape their homes because ofISIS.

In Syria, since the beginning of the conflict, at least 3million children have had to abandon school. One in five schools cannotfunction as there are no books, desks or sanitary services and, in many partsof the country, no available teachers. This alarming scenario is described in adossierissued jointly by the Italian Red Cross and the AGIRE network (Italian Agencyfor response to emergencies). The dossier calls attention to the educationemergency caused by disruptions in the Middle East region.

Thedossier refers to testimony by a volunteer, Daniele Grivel, who speaks of theKurdistan region. “Unless adequate solutions are found swiftly–says the missionhead of the Intersos organization in Iraq–tension is bound to rise between thelocal Kurd communities and displaced people arriving from other Iraqi provinces.We have started a program of informal instruction in tents and arranged doubleshifts in practicable school buildings, but we will never succeed in meetingall the needs.”


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