When it comes to Syria, the main headlines inevitably focus on two things: chemical weapons and Islamist extremists. The bitter irony is that when people talk about these two items, there are loud debates over the basic facts, and huge political efforts are being made to come to grips with both of these issues.
However, when it comes to the children of Syria, there is much less disagreement about the situation on the ground and much less in the way of efforts to tackle the problem.
The beginning of the school year is a time to highlight the massive challenges and tragedies faced by Syria’s children. According to UNICEF, almost 2 million school-age Syrians have left school because of either violence or displacement since the 2012-2013 academic year. Also, around 20 percent of Syria’s schools have been affected because of the brutal war raging in that country – they have either been destroyed or damaged, or are sheltering displaced people. Thousands of Syrian children inside the country have had to change schools because of the crisis, and the lucky institutions are those able to use psychologists to help ease the related trauma for youngsters. Outside Syria, refugee camps are filled with thousands and thousands of youths who are hoping to attend this school year, with only a small percentage lucky enough to receive any kind of regular instruction.
The problems faced by Syrian children go beyond school – many have suffered from horrific levels of trauma, or worse, personal injury. If they have not directly experienced such things, they are likely surrounded by relatives, friends and acquaintances who have. And despite all of these problems, which are as plain as day, the international community has been unable to make a dent in the problem.
Syria’s civil war is in danger of turning one of the Arab world’s bright spots in the area of primary-level education into something similar to its war-torn neighbor, Iraq. People should also remember that as children miss out on schooling this year, a large number of them will be forced to compensate for the situation by engaging in underage work – sometimes under brutal conditions – and, unfortunately, crime and other types of ways to make a “living.”
Throughout the world, there are undoubtedly many individuals and organizations that deserve thanks and appreciation for the work they are doing to help as many Syrian children as they can. But the most resounding achievement will go to anyone who can actually help end the horror that continues to unfold in Syria.
With every passing day, Syrian children are being unfairly forced to pay the price of the war raging in their country, and their physical, emotional and educational problems won’t go away when the guns finally fall silent. If Syria’s children and its educational system – the backbone of any country – aren’t healed, this tragedy will play itself out for several decades to come.