Syria war will leave generation illiterate
UN official: Education crisis must be addressed
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.”
‘NO SCHOOL FOR TWO YEARS’
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.”
‘ MY CHILDREN ARE JUST SITTING AT HOME’
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