October 18, 2019

Five things you need to know this week about global education

At least 160,000 people have been displaced due to fighting in northern Syria. Nearly 70,000 of them are children

Photo credit: UNICEF / Souleimain

The horrific effects on children of Turkey's offensive in Syria, how Nobel Prize winners have helped five million Indian students and a royal visit to a Pakistani school are in our roundup.

Children killed, displaced and out of school in Syria offensive

Several children have been killed and more than 70,000 displaced from their homes by the Turkish offensive into northeast Syria.

Education has been disrupted, with many schools being used as shelters for people fleeing from the fighting. All schools have been shut since last week in the city of Ras Al-Ain and at least one school is reported to have been attacked.

But children in the city of Qamishli returned to their classrooms yesterday after Turkey agreed to a ceasefire to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw. Shelling in the area had forced their parents to keep them at home for several days.

“There were sounds of the airstrikes and bombings," student Roniya Sleman told the Kurdish news group Rudaw. "We were staying at home and didn’t go out of our homes. We were afraid. That’s why we couldn’t come to school.”

Eighteen children were among 218 civilians who were killed after the offensive started a week ago, the Kurdish-led administration in the region said yesterday. 

“UNICEF is concerned that at least 170,000 children could need humanitarian assistance as a result of ongoing violence in the area," said the agency's Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

A United Nations statement said most people who had fled their homes "are being sheltered in host communities but an increasing number of them are arriving at collective shelters and many are seeking refuge in schools".

The eight-year conflict in Syria has left two in five schools damaged or destroyed, according to UNICEF. Since 2014, the UN has verified over 385 attacks on education facilities and military use of over 50 schools.

Over two million children – more than a third of Syria’s child population - are out of school and 1.3 million children are at risk of dropping out. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries are also still out of school .

5m Indian students helped by Nobel Prize winners

Millions of children at schools in India have been helped by the work of the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize winners. 

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer were honoured this week for showing how poverty can be addressed by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare.

As a direct result of their research, more than five million Indian children have benefited from remedial tutoring in schools, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences which awards the prize.

The US-based team have been associated with the "Teaching at the right level" (TarL) programme which has helped 60 million children in India and Africa and focuses on maths and reading skills for primary school pupils.

Truck bomb injures Afghan schoolchildren

Conflict in Afghanistan has left hundreds of schools closed

Photo credit: UN Photo

Twenty children were injured when a Taliban truck bomb was detonated near a rural police station and damaged a nearby school in Afghanistan.

The attack, which killed three people, happened on Wednesday in eastern Laghman province. Ezatullah, an injured 10-year-old, said the blast was "huge and loud". 

He added: "I was in class with my friends reciting the Koran when we saw a red truck rushing toward us. For a moment everything went dark and when I woke up I found myself in the hospital."

The Afghan conflict led to the closure of more than 1,000 schools by the end of 2018.

“It is extremely worrying to see so many children being killed and wounded in Afghanistan on a near-daily basis as the security situation doesn’t show signs of improvement," said Onno van Manen, Save the Children’s Afghanistan Country Director. "They risk death or injury on their way to school, while playing outside or visiting the local markets. This is unacceptable.”

Royal couple visit girls' school in Pakistan

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge signalled their support for women's education in Pakistan by making a girls' school the first stop on their inaugural tour of the country.

The royal couple visited the government-run Islamabad Model College for Girls, which has 1,000 students from first to 12th grade.

The duke and duchess heard how pupils were benefiting from the Teach for Pakistan programme - a fast-track teacher training scheme modelled on the UK's Teach First scheme.

Nearly half of Pakistani school-age children - about 23 million - do not attend school. Girls are particularly sidelined from education in Pakistan, with 32% of primary school-age girls out of school compared with 21% of boys.

500 students freed in third raid on Nigerian schools

Police freed about 500 male students from an Islamic school in northern Nigeria on Wednesday. Police sources said many of them had been chained to walls, molested and beaten.

The raid in Katsina was the third such operation in less than a month, in which about 1,000 people - mostly children - have been freed from abusive conditions. 

It came the day after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a crackdown on abuse at Islamic schools. That followed the freeing of nearly 300 students held captive at a school in the Daura area of Katsina, the president's hometown.

Reuters news agency said some parents thought their children would be educated at the facilities and paid tuition, while other families sent misbehaving or difficult family members for discipline. Islamic schools, called Almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. The Nigerian group Muslim Rights Concern estimates about 10 million children attend them.

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