Education is under attack in Syria once again

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Today, many children across the UK are breaking up from school for the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately, for 1,300 children in Ma’arat al-Nu’man, south of Idlib, they are having a forced break from education after it was hit whilst the town was being bombarded by airstrikes and tank shelling last night (Thursday 19th December 2019).

Fortunately, no one was killed, however we have had to suspend the school until the massive shelling ceases. Due to the sheer scale of the bombardment we are currently unable to even provide children with home-based schooling.

This is now the 5th of the 159 schools that Syria Relief runs that has been targeted by airstrikes, since the start of the Idlib offensive on April 30th, 2019.

Back in September we launched No School To Back To which detailed the impact of deliberate targeting of schools is having on Syrian children and the Syrian economy. We found that:

• Areas that have had schools targeted experience temporary strikes in illiteracy

• The targeting of schools makes a political settlement to the police close to impossible, as it embitters the population to the forces who choose to flout international law through the destruction of school

• Girls and children with disabilities are put at a greater disadvantage, due to the tendency of regressive attitudes to prevail when children are out of education

• Teachers and children are attending school less, due to fear that the classroom is no longer safe due to the bombing campaign

• NGO resources are being spent on trying to address the huge need for psychosocial support for the thousands of children suffering from mental trauma that comes from growing up in a war zone, to tackle the increasing likelihood that children will fall out of school and struggle to learn at the same pace as other children, due to severe trauma

Last month we announced that we were running an extra 107 schools, making the total of schools run by Syria Relief 159, making us the largest NGO provider of education in Syria. The quality of education suffers immensely when we are having to prioritise saving children’s lives, over helping children to learn and grow. The schools we operate achieve great educational outcomes, however 5 of our schools have been hit 6 months, and education facilities are no longer places where children and teachers can feel safe.

However, avoiding school also has tragic consequences for a child; if a child is out of education then their potential is under severe threat, too. Some parents in Syria are forced to choose between risking their child’s life by sending them to school or risking their future by not sending them. Destroying a school is in no one’s interest and we beg the actors in this conflict to stop targeting schools.

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