Funding for education urgently needed
AMMAN, 17 September 2012 – Children across Syria are returning to school this week for the start of the new academic year, but they do so in a state of uncertainty because of the on-going violence.
According to the Ministry of Education, an estimated 2,072 schools have been damaged, while more than 800 others are sheltering families displaced by the conflict. Almost 90 education staff has been killed. Ahead of last Sunday’s resumption of classes, the Government moved displaced families out of some schools into alternative sites, including sports halls.
In an initial phase of its intervention, UNICEF plans to reach up to 75,000 children with emergency education assistance. This includes the light rehabilitation of up to 150 damaged schools, the provision of 30,000 bags of school supplies to displaced children, and continued support for more than 100 school clubs that provide psychosocial support, remedial education and recreational activities.
“It is vital to get children affected by the crisis back to learning as soon as possible: this will help them re-establish a sense of normalcy in their lives,” said Dina Craissati, UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Education Advisor.
Meanwhile, UNICEF is urgently working with governments and other partners to support the estimated 66,900 registered Syrian refugee children of school-age in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, where school has either already started or will do so soon. Actual numbers of school-age children, including those waiting to register and non-registered children, pushes the number still higher.
In Jordan, where the new school year started on 4 September, around 17,000 Syrian refugee children are attending schools in host communities, with more expected. UNICEF and partner assistance includes tuition fees and textbooks, supplies, provision of additional classroom space, and equipping children and schools for the approaching winter.
But there is no school yet for the estimated 6,000 school-age children at Za’atari camp, near the Jordan-Syria border. UNICEF and the Jordanian Ministry of Education have registered more than 1,150 children for a camp school expected to open at the end of September. But there is a desperate need for additional funding to cover the cost of school furniture, teacher salaries, and water and sanitation facilities.
Education initiatives are also reaching refugee children in Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. In Lebanon, UNICEF is working to ensure all 32,000 school-aged children from affected populations are enrolled in school. UNICEF is also rehabilitating 45 schools and raising awareness about school registration. In Iraq, 11 schools formerly used as shelters are being rehabilitated, additional class space has been provided, and a school enrolment campaign is reaching children at two refugee camps.
UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Director, Maria Calivis, said that additional funds are urgently needed to support the emergency education response. “The funding shortfall is undermining the impact of UNICEF’s work in supporting children’s return to learning. We need the support of the international community and we need it now,” said Ms Calivis.
UNICEF still requires $40.4mn for its emergency response in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. With the situation deteriorating, that figure is expected to rise.