Mustafa*, 10, in the section of his school which was damaged by an airstrike in North West Syria in 2018. This school is supported by Save the Children's partner on the ground, Hurras Network, which implemented psychosocial support activities funded by Save the Children.
North West Syria: Schools and Children still under Attack despite Year of Ceasefire
Since the ceasefire announcement in March 2020, Save the Children and its partner, Hurras Network, have confirmed nine attacks on educational facilities in the North West of Syria[i].
The attacks have killed at least four children and four staff members of schools, with the actual number of deaths expected to be higher. School facilities have been destroyed and damaged, and the education of many children has been disrupted.
Although there has been a decline in the number of attacks compared to 2019 – when 80 such violations took place – Save the Children is warning that education remains under threat due to the continuous violence. Across Syria, the Syria Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism verified 61 attacks.[ii]
In one incident recorded by Save the Children and Hurras Network, artillery shells fell several feet outside a school as children gathered in the playground. They were escorted indoors by their teachers and sent home when the shelling stopped.
The new data shows that the attacks, mainly airstrikes and artillery shelling, have brought learning to a halt. At least three of the attacks damaged or destroyed the school buildings, leaving children with nowhere to go for their education.
Sara*, 10, is in the fourth grade. She recalls an attack at the school she used to attend in her hometown, Ma’arat Nu’man, north of Hama, before being displaced to Idlib.
“My school was shelled while I was in it,” said Sara.* “I got really upset for my friends, teacher, and principal. I even got upset over the school because I felt like there weren’t any schools left, and I was really attached to my school. I thought we were never going to be able to learn anymore.“[When shelling takes place] I hide in the safest place, and I open my mouth and close my ears so I won’t hear the airstrikes and feel that there’s nothing wrong.”
Raya*, also 10, has been displaced in Idlib for two years.
“When the airstrike hit the school, both my older brother and sister were inside studying,” Raya* told Save the Children’s partners. “The classroom window fell on my brother, and thank goodness nothing happened to my sister.”
The United Nations classifies attacks against schools as one of the six grave violations committed against children [iii]. 35 percent of teachers surveyed by Save the Children last year said that attacks on education facilities were one of the primary reasons forcing children to drop out of school.[iv]
Save the Children’s Syria Response Director, Sonia Khush said:
“It is heartbreaking to see that children continue to be victims of the Syrian conflict and pay the highest price of this conflict. Schools should be safe havens for children and not zones of war. It is appalling to witness that despite the ceasefire announced in March 2020, the conflict continues to kill children and families across the whole country. These are grave violations committed against innocent individuals and should be put to an end.”
Save the Children calls on all sides to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law, endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, avoid targeting schools and civilian infrastructure, and ensure the safety and protection of children.
[i] Save the Children collaborated with a partner to create a system in North West Syria to regularly collect information and evidence related to attacks on education and their impact on children, teachers and education infrastructure.
[ii] The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) was launched by the UN to monitor grave child rights violations and enhance the accountability of perpetrators. The purpose of the MRM is to provide for the systematic gathering of accurate, timely, objective and reliable information on six grave violations committed against children in situations of armed conflict.
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