A new assessment released today by the United Nations Children's Fund estimates that some Syrian children have missed out on as much as two years of education in the midst of their country's ongoing civil struggle.
“The education system in Syria is reeling from the impact of violence,” said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF's Syria representative, in a statement. “Syria once prided itself on the quality of its schools. Now it’s seeing the gains it made over the years rapidly reversed.”
According to the report, schools are increasingly being used by armed groups and displaced persons seeking shelter. More than 1,500 schools have been damaged or converted into shelters, a problem illustrated in the map above.
On top of that, attendance rates have plummeted -- down to 6% in some areas. UNICEF blames insecurity, lack of teachers and resources, and damaged buildings, along with the pressure to drop out and earn an income or get married early.
That bodes poorly for young Syrians, who struggled to complete school and find jobs long before the conflict started. According to a 2010 paper sponsored by Stanford University, nearly 40 percent of Syrian youth ages 15 to 24 dropped out of school before the ninth grade. And many Syrian youth, particularly women, faced crippling unemployment rates.
UNICEF has announced a number of plans to try to alleviate Syria's education crisis, including the donation of school supplies and prefabricated classrooms and outreach to internally displaced children. But the agency wants $20 million to complete its projects -- and has so far received only 15 percent of that amount.