“Whether because of damage to buildings or because of the overall insecurity, nearly two thirds of our students in Syria will not be able to return to their schools this fall,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said in a press release.
He added that in addition to disrupting their education, the closures make it even harder for children to maintain a sense of continuity in an already difficult situation.
Of the UN agency’s 118 schools in Syria, only 49 will reopen for the 2013-2014 school year.
UNRWA said it is working on alternatives, such as broadcasting classes on its television channel and developing long-distance learning materials.
“The situation in Syria is a great challenge, but it has only increased the importance of ensuring that Palestine refugees have access to high-quality and continued education,” said Caroline Pontefract, UNRWA Director of Education.
Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad as many as 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced. In addition, at least 6.8 million Syrian require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children.
Following a visit to the region in July, Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said without a political solution to the conflict in Syria, the country faces “a generation of angry, illiterate adults.”
She said schools in the region are trying to assist Syrian children, but challenges remain stemming from discrepancies in curriculum, capacity and language.
In Lebanon, which hosts around 50,000 Palestine refugees, only about 35 per cent of students are enrolled in school, according to UNRWA figures.