Children in the region face a host of challenges to stay in school and complete their national exams. Families increasingly face poverty, child labour, inability to afford transportation to school, overcrowding, lack of teachers and school space, and low quality education.
“Wherever they live across the region, nothing should stop children from finishing and certifying their education through national exams,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
One in five children across the region lives in conflict-affected countries:
- To reach national exam centres in Syria, children risk getting stopped and questioned at checkpoints. The seven-year long war has forced 2.1 million children out of school. There have been 347 verified attacks against schools and education personnel since the conflict started in 2011.
- Nearly 20 percent of schools in Yemen can no longer be used because they are destroyed, damaged, sheltering displaced families or used for military purposes. Since the conflict escalated in 2015, half a million children have dropped out of school, bringing the total number of out-of-school children to 2 million. Teachers have not been paid in over a year.
- In Iraq, where one in four children live in poverty, half of the schools need rehabilitation after years of fighting and violence. Many children are forced to travel for hours in scorching heat to reach the exam sites.
- In the State of Palestine, over 8,000 children and 400 teachers need protection to safely access school in some areas of the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, only five hours of electricity a day means children study in extreme heat and rely on phone light and candles to revise at night. Two out of three schools operate on double or triple shifts.
- In Sudan, children from conflict-affected areas or who have been displaced by violence must travel long distances just to sit their exams.
- An estimated 489 schools have been affected by the conflict in Libya, affecting the education of an estimated 260,000 students. Recent violence in the eastern city of Derna and Sabha in the south west, have forced many schools to close.
- Over half of all Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are not in school because they have to work to make ends meet, their families are on the move or because they can’t afford transportation to school.