As the world commemorates World Education Day 2024 under the theme “Learning for Lasting Peace,” the focus is not only on celebrating the importance of education but also on acknowledging the challenges faced by children in conflict zones, particularly in Syria. The ongoing Syrian conflict has had a devastating impact on the education of children, with schools and educational facilities becoming targets of violence and destruction.
The Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, has highlighted the deliberate targeting of schools in northwestern Syria by the regime and Russian forces. This systematic assault on education has not only destroyed infrastructure but has also claimed the lives of 63 innocent children in 2023, robbing them of their future. The White Helmets emphasize the urgent need for security and stability to ensure safe and sustainable educational environments in the region.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), the year 2023 witnessed a significant increase in attacks on educational facilities, with 44 documented attacks, compared to only two in 2022 and four within the first month of 2024. These attacks, primarily carried out by regime forces, have disrupted the education of approximately 2.2 million school-aged children in northwestern Syria. Shockingly, an estimated one million of these children are now out of formal education, exacerbating an already dire situation.
The impact of the conflict on education is particularly severe in displacement camps, where a large percentage of children lack access to elementary and high schools. The recent offensive by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in Idlib and western rural Aleppo has further exacerbated the crisis, leading to the displacement of 120,000 people, including 40,000 school-aged children who are in urgent need of educational support.
The consequences of the conflict on the education of Syrian children are profound and far-reaching. Not only does it deprive them of their fundamental right to education, but it also hinders the prospects of rebuilding a peaceful and prosperous Syria in the future. Groups like SNHR and the White Helmets stress that the international community must prioritize the protection of educational facilities and ensure access to quality education for all children, regardless of their circumstances.
On World Education Day, it is imperative to renew the commitment to supporting education and educational processes in northwestern Syria, say the White Helmets. Efforts to end the ongoing attacks on schools and educational facilities must be intensified, and measures to guarantee the safety and security of students and educators should be prioritized. Education is not only a pathway to individual empowerment but also a cornerstone for building lasting peace and stability in conflict-affected regions.