Syria’s Eleven-Year Civil War Has Created An Educational Crisis

14.5 million people and 6.5 million children in Syria need humanitarian assistance, breaking a record the country set in 2011. 90% of Syrians are living in poverty and are unable to make ends meet. Social and civilian services infrastructure have suffered severe destruction, further limiting resources available for families. Prices have skyrocketed, employment opportunities are limited, and there are shortages of necessary supplies. Syria’s ongoing humanitarian catastrophe is a complex issue, encompassing an ongoing civil war, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an economic crisis.

In 2011, pro-democracy protests challenging the Syrian government’s authority erupted throughout the country. The government relied heavily on violence from police and military forces to suppress and silence protestors. This encouraged oppositional militias to begin to form, and by 2012, the conflict had expanded into a civil war. Eleven years have now passed since the Syrian civil war began, and many children were born into this conflict. Syria is one of the most dangerous places for children, who live every day fearing the likelihood that they might lose their loved ones.

In addition to the effects of growing up beset by violence, the complex humanitarian crisis has severely disrupted Syrians’ education. UNICEF states that 2.4 million children from the ages of 5 to 17 are out of school. This represents approximately half of all school-aged children in Syria – there is an entire generation of Syrian children who have never been enrolled in school. The longer children are out of school, the harder it is for them to catch up, which further increases the possibility that they will never receive any education at all. Some children have lost up to 10 years of their education.

Syrian children face numerous barriers to education, including displacement, lack of schools, economic hardships, and need for protection. Many of these children participate in child labour, where children try to provide for their families amidst the ongoing economic crisis. Syrian children also fall victim to forced marriage and trafficking, and oppositional militias and the military try to recruit children into the fighting.

According to UNICEF, one in three Syrian schools is no longer used for education. Many have been damaged, destroyed, or used as shelters for displaced families or for the military. The children that are enrolled in school face overcrowded classrooms and a lack of teachers. Many teachers and education personnel have fled the country. When students do enroll in school, one out of every three of those children does not make it out of primary school.

Every day that Syria’s humanitarian crisis continues is another day lost for Syrian children’s education. These children cannot continue to wait.