May 10, 2019

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Schools that were closed in Sri Lanka following multiple bombings have been reopening

Photo credit: Jean-Louis Porter

Parents keep their children off school after Sri Lanka bombings and Rohingya refugees have 2,000 learning centres - plus more in our news roundup.

School attendance low after Sri Lanka terror attacks

Security was tight as thousands of state schools across Sri Lanka resumed classes this week in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 258 people.

But attendance has been low despite a raft of new measures, including armed guards and parking restrictions near schools. Many anxious parents kept their children at home over fears of more attacks by Islamic militants.

"I have decided not to send my son to school until the country returns to normal," said Sujeeva Dissanayake, whose son goes to the state-run Asoka College in Colombo.

Mid-to-upper stream classes at the country's 10,000 state schools resumed on Monday, a day after soldiers conducted a security sweep of schools. Lower grades are expected to resume on May 13.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said all Catholic schools will reopen the following day. They have been shut since the April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels.

2,000 learning centres for Rohingya refugees

The Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh now have 2,000 learning centres. More than 180,000 children aged from four to 14 are being taught by 4,000 teachers who have been trained by UNICEF partners. 

After the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children who fled from Myanmar in August 2017, the initial focus was to provide safe learning environments.

"Today, UNICEF is focusing on ensuring quality education for Rohingya children," said spokesperson Christophe Boulierac. 

He said their learning is now comparable to those that children would achieve through a formal school curriculum and includes English and Burmese language, mathematics, life skills and science.

"There is still a lot of work," he added. "One-third of the 416,000 school-age Rohingya children are still not accessing basic education. A generation of Rohingya children and young people cannot be left without the education and skills needed to build a life for themselves."

Bombing in Syria destroys 10 schools

Bombs targeted at hospitals and civilian areas killed more than 180 people in Idlib

At least 10 schools have been destroyed during a devastating bombing campaign in Syria's Idlib province.

More than 180 people have been killed and over 150,000 have fled their homes since the attacks began on April 30. The UN said bombs had fallen on at least 50 villages. The UN Security Council is to meet today to discuss the escalation in the fighting. 

Air attacks and shelling of schools and hospitals in northwest Syria amount to "an unacceptable violation of international law," said the European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Schools are meant to be safe places for children to learn. 87 countries have now signed the Safe Schools Declaration - a commitment to protect education in conflict.

Theirworld's report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis revealed that between 2013 and 2017 there were more than 12,700 attacks on schools, harming more than 21,000 students and educators in at least 70 countries.

Funding boost for Palestinian education

Qatar has given $480 million in aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority to support education and health services and provide urgent humanitarian relief.

Meanwhile, the UN agency that educates thousands of Palestinian children has also been given a funding boost. Norway has given $11.5 million to UNRWA's emergency appeal for its work in Syria, where there are 438,000 Palestinian refugees.

“This funding will be used to meet basic humanitarian needs and will target vulnerable groups, including displaced children who have a right to education, and refugees’ needs in healthcare,” said Norwegian foreign minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

New Zealand has also committed to helping UNRWA's core programmes, including education for 532,000 Palestine refugee boys and girls in 715 UNRWA schools across the Middle East.

Last year the agency suffered a serious funding crisis when the United States withdrew its $250 million of aid. UNRWA, which spends 54% of its budget on education, warned at the time that schools might not reopen - but other international donors stepped in to help plug the gap.

894 child soldiers freed by Nigerian militia

Children pay the heaviest price in armed conflict

Photo credit: UNICEF

Almost 900 child soldiers have been released by a militia in troubled northeast Nigeria.

The 894 children - including 106 girls - were freed from the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri. The militia, which helps security forces in the fight against Boko Haram, has committed to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.

"We cannot give up the fight for the children, as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria," said Mohamed Fall, Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria.

Child recruits are used in a variety of tasks by armed forces and militias. Most child soldiers miss out on school and can be traumatised by what they have been forced to do or have witnessed.

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