United Nations’ children’s fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Education has launched a Back to School campaign in 10 governorates to reach an estimated 3.5 million displaced Iraqi children who are missing out on their education.
“Some 3.5 million school-aged Iraqi children are missing out on education, which means they are at increased risk of early marriage, child labour and recruitment into armed groups,” the UN News Centre reported on Friday. “About one million school-aged children are internally displaced, and 70 per cent of them have lost an entire year of school.”
UNICEF hopes to see as many children in the classroom and enable those already in formal education to stay there. UNICEF is also running a public information campaign along with providing school supplies, help with transportation, and basic services.
“Approximately 64,000 Syrian refugee children living in Iraq have had their education disrupted. We are particularly concerned for the children displaced in Anbar and along the Mosul corridor due to ongoing fighting.
Over the past few weeks, thousands have fled their homes to camps and informal settlements. As the conflict intensifies, we are preparing to support hundreds of thousands more children, along with their families.”
The problem is compounded by the fact that in areas controlled by ISIS Sharia courses have been introduced. The curriculum enforced by ISIS focuses on “Islamic jurisprudence and religion, in addition to norms and manners.”
Militants focus on training children in use of weapons and fighting techniques to participate in jihad. Mixing of genders, music, and even basics such as mathematics have been banned.
Around 10 million school-aged children Iraq have suffered displacement, violence, trauma, or some other form of abuse. UNICEF is striving to give these children access to a good standard of education and to learn in safe and protected environments.
Together with Save the Children and the Government of Iraq, UNICEF is co-leading the coordination of the overall Education response.
UNICEF is offering emergency assistance to displaced Iraqi and Syrian refugee children, and longer term support to strengthen education systems and services across Iraq.
In 2016, UNICEF helped to get more than 116,000 out of school children back into classrooms and distributed school supplies and learning materials to school children.
UNICEF has also trained more than 2,350 education staff, helped 383 schools improve their governance practices, mainstreamed life skills education in 439 schools, and helped to reopen schools in previously inaccessible areas like Anbar.
The agency has built pre-fab classrooms providing learning space for 42,000 displaced children and distributed supplies to more than 280,000 children in 2016.