No “back to school” for 30 million children affected by conflict and crisis: UNICEF

Critical shortage of funds further hampers efforts to keep children learning
UNICEF, September 7, 2014

NEW YORK, 8 September 2014 – As students around the world return to school, a record number of conflicts and crises are depriving millions of children of their right to an education.

Almost 30 million children are out of school in emergency or conflict affected countries – approximately half of all children out of school worldwide. Schools have been targeted and millions of displaced children have been forced from their homes and studies. 

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, primary and secondary schools will remain closed until at least the end of the year because of the Ebola outbreak, affecting over 3.5 million children.

“For children living through emergencies, education is a life line,” said Josephine Bourne, UNICEF’s head of global education programmes. “Being able to continue learning provides a sense of normalcy that can help children overcome trauma, and is an investment – not only in individual children, but in the future strength of their societies.  Without the knowledge, skills, and support education provides, how can these children and young people rebuild their lives – and their communities?”

In conflict affected countries: 

  • A third of schools recently surveyed in the Central African Republic had either been struck by bullets, set on fire, looted or occupied by armed groups.
  • Over 100 schools were used as shelters for more than 300,000 people displaced during the most recent conflict in Gaza require rehabilitation.
  • Students and teachers have been killed and abducted in northeast Nigeria, including more than 200 school girls who have yet to be released. 
  • Nearly 3 million children, half the Syrian school population, are now not attending classes on a regular basis. 
  • Approximately 290 schools have been destroyed or damaged in recent fighting in Ukraine.

To maintain opportunities for children to learn, even amidst crisis, UNICEF supports emergency education efforts ranging from temporary classrooms and alternative learning spaces for internally displaced and refugee children, to the provision of millions of notebooks, backpacks and other vital school supplies. UNICEF also supports self-directed studies for children who can’t leave their homes and will help provide educational radio programmes for children in Ebola-affected countries.  

Despite the criticality of emergency education programmes they are severely underfunded.  

“Last year global emergency education programmes supported by UNICEF only received 2 per cent of all funds raised for humanitarian action, resulting in a US $247 million funding shortfall. Education is an essential part of humanitarian response, requiring support and investment from the very onset of a crisis,” Bourne said. “A record number of emergencies means that more children than ever are at risk and we urgently need the resources to reach these children.”