EUROPE/ITALY - Middle East education emergency: school year at risk for millions of students

Monday, 8 September 2014

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - In Gaza the re-opening of schools – initially set for 24 August and involving more than 240,000 students – was postponed to 14 September. In Iraq more than half a million among the Iraqis forced from
their homes in the face of the advance of Jihadist militants are of school age. In Iraqi Kurdistan alone, about 190,000 children will not go to school. In all Iraq some 2,000 schools serve as shelters for displaced families. In Syria, since the beginning of the conflict, at least 3 million children have had to abandon school. One of every five schools cannot function, there are no books, no desks, no sanitary services and, in many parts of the country, no available teachers. This alarming scenario is described in a dossier issued jointly by the Italian Red Cross and the AGIRE network (Italian Agency for response to emergencies). The dossier aims to call attention to the education emergency caused by disrupting convulsions in the middle east region.
All over the Middle East, conflicts, forced migrations, destruction of school buildings and transformation of classrooms into shelters for refugees, threatens to jeopardise the future of a whole generation of young people. We read in a report sent to Fides: “The problem concerns not only minors who are displaced or refugees in these countries, but also the numerous young people living in the areas where peoples in flight have sought safety. Very often schools which are not destroyed or damaged or used as headquarters for armed groups, are occupied by communities of displaced persons. In many cases there is no other option: refugee camps are often overcrowded or in precarious conditions and the only possible shelters for those not staying in private homes, are parks, abandoned buildings and schools”.
The dossier refers to testimony by a volunteer, Daniele Grivel, who speaks of the “explosive” situation that has arisen in Erbil, main town of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region . “Unless adequate solutions are found swiftly – says the mission head of the Intersos organisation in Iraq – tension is bound to rise between the local Kurd communities and displaced people arrived from other Iraqi provinces. We have started a programme of informal instruction in tents and arranged double shifts in practicable school buildings, but we will never succeed in meeting all the needs”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 8/9/2014).