Back to school – but not for 30m children affected by conflicts and crises

Children in conflicts

Many students around the world have returned to school in recent days after their vacations – but almost 30 million children are out of school because of a record number of conflicts and emergencies.

Violence in Syria, Gaza, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Ukraine has contributed to the grim figure, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said yesterday.

The near 30 million make up more than half of the 58 million children out of school around the world. Millions have been displaced from their schools and homes and others have seen their schools attacked or occupied by military forces.

Helping children affected by conflicts and emergencies is one of A World at School's First 100 Days targets in the 500-day #EducationCountdown campaign. You can learn more about education in emergencies and find out how to take action here.

Josephine Bourne, UNICEF’s head of global education programmes, said: “For children living through emergencies, education is a lifeline. Being able to continue learning provides a sense of normalcy that can help children overcome trauma and is an investment – not only in individual children, but in the future strengthening of their societies.

“Without the knowledge, skills and support education provides, how can these children and young people rebuild their lives – and their communities?”

UNICEF said that:

  • A third of schools recently surveyed in the Central African Republic had either been struck by bullets, set on fire, looted or occupied by armed groups
  • More than100 schools were used as shelters for more than 300,000 people displaced during the recent Gaza conflict
  • Students and teachers have been killed and abducted in northeast Nigeria, including the Chibok schoolgirls
  • Nearly three million children, half the Syrian school population, are now not attending classes on a regular basis
  • About 290 schools have been destroyed or damaged in fighting in Ukraine

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, primary and secondary schools will remain closed until at least the end of the year because of the Ebola outbreak, affecting more than 3.5 million children.

Ms Bourne outlined how UNICEF supports emergency education through efforts ranging from temporary classrooms and alternative learning spaces for internally displaced and refugee children, to the provision of millions of notebooks, backpacks and other school supplies.

But she added: “Last year, global emergency education programmes supported by UNICEF only received 2% of all funds raised for humanitarian action, resulting in a $247 million funding shortfall. Education is an essential part of humanitarian response, requiring support and investment from the very onset of a crisis.”

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