More than 25 million children between 6 and 15 years old, or 22 percent of children in that age group, are missing out on school in conflict zones across 22 countries, UNICEF said today.
“At no time is education more important than in times of war,” said UNICEF Chief of Education Josephine Bourne. “Without education, there can be no peace. How else will children acquire the skills needed to contribute to the development of their countries and their economies?”
Here at ONE, we totally agree. You might remember our #EducationForRefugees campaign last year — thanks again for the BIG role you played in supporting the right of children everywhere to have access to a quality education.
To help people understand the challenges children effected and uprooted by conflict face in accessing school, 19-year-old Syrian refugee and education activist Muzoon Almellehan recently traveled to Chad, a country with the third highest rate of girls out of school after Iraq and Yemen. Nearly 66 percent of girls of primary and lower-secondary school age in Chad are not in school, compared to 68 percent in both Iraq and Yemen.
Muzoon met with out-of-school children who had recently escaped Boko Haram, children who had started school for the first time, and community members who — like her, once — are risking it all to get children into school.
“Meeting children in Chad who had fled Boko Haram reminded me of my own experiences in Syria,” says Muzoon. “Education gave me the strength to carry on. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
When Muzoon was forced to flee violence in Syria four years ago, her school books were the only belongings she took with her. She spent two years in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, where she made it her personal mission to get more girls into education. She went from tent to tent talking to parents to encourage them to get their children into school and learning. Muzoon now lives in the UK.
“Conflict can take away your friends, your family, your livelihood, your home,” says Muzoon. “It can try to strip you of your dignity, identity, pride and hope. But it can never take away your knowledge.”
Around 4,400 children fled Boko Haram violence in northeast Nigeria to Chad. Unlike Muzoon, many of them remain out of school – and therefore risk abuse, exploitation, and recruitment by armed forces and groups. Around 90 percent of children arriving into Chad from Nigeria have never been to school.
That’s why UNICEF works in conflict-affected countries to get children back to learning. The organization provides catch-up education and informal learning opportunities; trains teachers; rehabilitates schools; and distributes school furniture and supplies.
In response to the education crisis in Chad, this year, UNICEF has provided school supplies to more than 58,000 students; distributed teaching materials to more than 760 teachers; and built 151 classrooms, 101 temporary learning spaces, 52 latrines, and seven sports fields. UNICEF Chad also supported the salaries of 327 teachers for the 2016-2017 school year!
Despite these efforts, funding shortfalls are affecting children’s access to school in the conflict-affected areas of Chad. Currently, 40 percent of UNICEF’s 2017 education funding needs in the country have been met.
Find out how you can help here. For more information about Education Cannot Wait — a fund launched during the World Humanitarian Summit to provide quality education for children who have been displaced — go here.