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Thu 3 Sep 2015 12:24 PM

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War stops 13m going to school in MENA region, UN claims

Refugees fleeing to Europe seek better life for children

War stops 13m going to school in MENA region, UN claims
(Getty Images)

Conflicts
across the Middle East and North Africa are preventing more than 13 million
children from attending school, leaving their hopes and futures shattered, the
United Nations Children's Fund said in a report issued on Thursday.

The UNICEF
report "Education Under Fire" looked at the impact of violence on
schoolchildren in nine territories, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya
where a generation is growing up outside of the education system.

"It's no
coincidence in that what we see in terms of our TV pictures, the tragic
pictures of people crossing on boats to Greece and Italy, very much comes back
to the Syrian conflict and (to) the Iraqi conflict to a lesser extent,"
UNICEF regional director Peter Salama said.

Refugees often
say the education of their children is their top priority, he said, and many
countries in the region simply are not able to provide that basic human right.

The study also
looked at Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey - countries neighbouring Syria and hosting
large numbers of refugees, as well as Sudan and the Palestinian Territories.

Attacks on
schools are one of the main reasons why many children cannot go to classes
while many such buildings are now being used to shelter displaced families or
are used as bases for combatants, UNICEF said.

In Syria, Iraq,
Yemen and Libya alone, nearly 9,000 schools are unable to be used for
education, the report said.

Thousands of
teachers across the region have abandoned their posts in fear, which has also
stopped parents from sending their children to school, it added.

Countries
hosting refugees are struggling to get children into schools because their
education systems were never created to absorb such numbers, Salama said.

"Everyone
is basically straining at the seams in terms in terms of dealing with this
massive crisis, which is not surprising given that it is the biggest population
movement since World War Two," he said.

Children out of
school can end up working illegally, often being breadwinners for their family.
They are vulnerable to exploitation and can be more easily recruited into armed
groups, he said.

UNICEF's
research shows children are increasingly becoming combatants from a younger
age, Salama said, while students and teachers have been killed, kidnapped and
arrested.

"We're on
the verge of losing an entire generation of children in the Middle East and
North Africa. We must step up, otherwise it will be irreversible and long-term
damage we've collectively inflicted upon the children of this region."

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