More than 13 million — that is the number of children who are prevented from attending school by surging conflict and political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa, according to a new report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
"A region which — until just a few short years ago — had the goal of universal education well within reach, today faces a disastrous situation," says the report, Education Under Fire, which focuses on the impact of violence on schoolchildren and education systems in nine countries that have been directly or indirectly impacted by violence.
The UNICEF report says attacks on schools and education infrastructure — sometimes deliberate — are one key reason why many children do not attend classes.
"In Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya alone, nearly 9,000 schools are out of use because they have been damaged, destroyed, are being used to shelter displaced civilians or have been taken over by parties to the conflict," it says.
Other factors, according to the agency, include the fear that drives thousands of teachers to abandon their posts, or keeps parents from sending their children to school because of what might happen to them along the way — or at school itself.