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GENEVA and DAMASCUS, Sept. 16, 2015 /CNW/ - As children around the world return to school this month, there are more than two million in Syria who will not be able to join them. According to UNICEF, another 400,000 are at risk of dropping out as a result of conflict, violence and displacement.
As the conflict in Syria enters its fifth year, the crisis continues to wipe out years of achievements in education. Some children in Syria have never been inside a classroom, while others lost up to four years of their schooling.
"As Canadians, we know the critical role education plays in a child's chances of having a healthy and productive future," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "In recent weeks we've seen how far reaching this unprecedented humanitarian crisis is—with children and families crowded into camps and host communities from Iraq to Egypt and migrants flooding the borders of European countries in record numbers. But in the midst of this, we must not forget the millions of children still living in war-ravaged Syria whose futures are at stake. They too are out of school."
"We've been encouraged by the generous response of Canadians to this crisis and, with the Government of Canada's match, Canadian donations will reach twice as many children and families with life-saving support and essential education programs to ensure they don't become a lost generation," said Morley. "We encourage the international community to continue to respond to this crisis as it evolves and prioritize the health, protection and education of children."
Schools destroyed, damaged or used as shelter
There are 5,000 schools across the country that cannot be used because they have been destroyed, damaged, converted to shelter displaced families or for military use. Many parents worry about sending their children to school because of the dangers on the road to or at school itself. In 2014 alone, at least 60 schools were attacked, sometimes deliberately. Syria's teachers have also paid a heavy price, with more than a quarter of the teaching workforce leaving posts.
"Syria's basic public services, including education, have been stretched to the maximum," said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative in Syria. "We need to do so much more to help the education institutions from collapsing and increase opportunities for children to access education across the country."
UNICEF responding to reach three million children
UNICEF has a wide network of local partners on the ground working to reach around three million children. For the first time since the war started, an informal education program has been rolled out to reduce the number of out-of-school children. UNICEF is locally printing school supplies and text books to distribute them to students in need.
Children across Syria are showing exceptional levels of resilience and persistence to continue their education. To take their exams last summer, at least 20 per cent of Syria's children were forced to cross lines of fire. Taking a perilous journey, children had to pass through countless checkpoints and risked being caught up in fierce fighting.
"Even under the worst circumstances Syrian children keep asking to learn because they are yearning for a better future. It is estimated that about four million children were able to attend school last year." says Hanaa Singer. "We must all invest in Syria's children as they are the future of Syria and they will help rebuild their country when peace returns."
No Lost Generation Initiative
In addition to 2.2 million children reached by the back-to-learning campaign, and under the 'No Lost Generation Initiative', UNICEF is starting a self-learning program to reach 500,000 children who missed out on years of schooling. The focus of the program is on areas where conflict has been heaviest and where schools are closed. An accelerated learning program will also help 200,000 children to catch up with their learning and ultimately help them to reintegrate into formal education.
To provide adequate space for learning, at least 600 school clubs were opened across the country. In areas hosting high numbers of displaced children, 600 schools were rehabilitated and 300 prefabricated classrooms are being delivered to accommodate 300,000 additional children.
UNICEF is committed to safeguarding children's right to education in Syria. To be able to continue responding to children's needs in education, UNICEF requires 68 million US$ by end of the year of which 12 million US$ are needed immediately.
The Government of Canada will match every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of the conflict in Syria, up to $100 million, until December 31, 2015. Canadians can donate to UNICEF's response at: unicef.ca
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Tiffany Baggetta, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8892, 647-308-4806 (mobile), [email protected]