Syria war will leave gen­er­a­tion il­lit­er­ate

UN of­fi­cial: Ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis must be ad­dressed

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

The con­flict in Syria and the refugee cri­sis it has cre­ated could re­sult in a “whole gen­er­a­tion” of young peo­ple be­ing left il­lit­er­ate and un­e­d­u­cated, a se­nior United Na­tions of­fi­cial has said.

Khaled Ab­del Shafi, Di­rec­tor of the Re­gional Hub of the UN De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, said in­no­cent Syr­ian chil­dren can­not wait sev­eral years for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to end the con­flict that has ru­ined their ed­u­ca­tion.

Shafi made the com­ments on the side­lines of the launch of the Knowl­edge Sum­mit, which is to be held in Dubai in De­cem­ber. Results of the Arab Read­ing In­dex will be re­leased dur­ing the sum­mit.

Last year, the results of the in­dex, which looks at the lit­er­acy rate in Arab coun­tries, showed just 41 per cent of school-age Syr­ian chil­dren are classed as study­ing ‘pre-univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion’. The fig­ure was 40 per cent in Ye­men.

Shafi said: “There should be in­terim so­lu­tions. We shouldn’t wait un­til the whole cri­sis is solved po­lit­i­cally, this may take years.

“If we don’t ad­dress the ed­u­ca­tional cri­sis of the Syr­ian refugees, we may risk the whole gen­er­a­tion of Syr­i­ans be­ing un­e­d­u­cated and il­lit­er­ate – which is not ac­cept­able for re­build­ing Syria.”

Pro­vid­ing an ed­u­ca­tion for young peo­ple in the Mid­dle East is cru­cial to im­prov­ing the re­gion’s pros­per­ity and en­sur­ing they are not swayed by ex­trem­ist ideas.

Khaled Ab­del Shafi, Di­rec­tor of the Re­gional Hub of the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, told 7DAYS that po­lit­i­cal un­rest is the “big­gest ob­sta­cle” the re­gion faces

He said the Arab Read­ing In­dex and Arab Knowl­edge Pro­gramme, to be un­veiled in De­cem­ber, will pro­vide the nec­es­sary data that de­ci­sion-mak­ers need to ad­dress lit­er­acy rates.

Shafi said: “Read­ing is an im­por­tant cri­te­rion that helps eval­u­ate a so­ci­ety’s progress, in­tel­lec­tual open­ness and cul­tural de­vel­op­ment.

“We will spare no ef­fort in our mis­sion to make read­ing a habit rooted in ev­ery in­di­vid­ual in our so­ci­ety.

“A ‘read­ing so­ci­ety’ is bet­ter pre­pared to ad­dress the risks of ex­trem­ism, he said.

“It is a so­ci­ety that is cul­tur­ally aware and equipped to find so­lu­tions for its so­cial, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems.”


7DAYS has in re­cent weeks vis­ited sev­eral Syr­ian fam­i­lies that have es­caped con­flict and made it to the UAE.

Most of those chil­dren have not at­tended school in more than two years be­cause of the vi­o­lent sit­u­a­tion in Syria. One Syr­ian ex­pat, Mo­hammed, who asked not to give his sur­name, has six chil­dren who moved from Syria to Shar­jah four months ago but do not yet have places in schools.

He told 7DAYS yes­ter­day: “My chil­dren haven’t been to school for two years and they are very be­hind with their ed­u­ca­tion. They aren’t read­ing

or writ­ing prop­erly. “We can only teach them in Ara­bic, but they can’t read or write prop­erly in English.

“More than half of the world speaks English – how will they man­age in the fu­ture?”

Mo­hammed said he has strug­gled to find places in school for his chil­dren and they all re­main at home.

He said: “We tried the char­ity schools that have low tu­ition fees but they are full.”


An­other Syr­ian fam­ily is fac­ing the same prob­lem.

Mo­hammed Yaser Al Mousa, a 14year-old Syr­ian ex­pat (pic­tured left) and his three sib­lings are also wait­ing for a spot to open in a ‘char­ity school’.

Mousa’s mum, Roudha, told 7DAYS ear­lier this month: “It makes me sad to see what’s hap­pened to my coun­try, but I feel re­lieved that we have es­caped.

“How­ever, the prob­lems don’t seem to stop. My kids have been sit­ting at home.

“They read books and I teach them what I can, but they need to go to a proper school.”

A re­cent UNICEF re­port re­vealed that there are 28 mil­lion chil­dren around the world who are dis­placed.

A sep­a­rate re­port found that 45 per cent of refugee chil­dren came from just two coun­tries: Syria and Afghanistan.

CRI­SIS: A whole gen­er­a­tion of Syr­ian refugee chil­dren could be left il­lit­er­ate if they are forced to wait for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the on­go­ing cri­sis

NO SCHOOL: Mo­hammed Yaser Al Mousa’s (in­set) par­ents are try­ing to find him and his three sib­lings places at a school in Shar­jah. Main image: Syr­ian refugee chil­dren play in a camp

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