On World Refugee Day, June 20, 2018, the Middle East Monitor featured an article documenting how, in many war-torn places, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Palestine, Nigeria, and Yemen, education is inaccessible to students due to violence. Between 2013 and 2017, more than 2,700 attacks on education, harming more than 21,000 students, have taken place, according to a 2018 report, titled “Global Education Under Attack,” published by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA).
As conflicts persist in much of the Middle East, the GCPEA highlighted how violent conflicts repeatedly deny education to students. School dropout rates in countries with conflict have skyrocketed, causing many schools to close their doors. When schools are in such close proximity to war zones, parents must decide if they are willing put their children in danger for an education. Syria is a significant example, as conflict there has destroyed much of its national education system, resulting in a total of over three million dropouts since 2015, according to the GCPEA report.
As of 2018, over forty percent of the schools in Syria are damaged, and many children have resorted to going to school in provisional underground schools, according to a report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which works to ensure that Syrian children receive the educations that they deserve. The NRC reported that, before conflict began there, an estimated 97 per cent of Syrian children attended primary school and 67 per cent of secondary aged youth attended secondary school. As a result, Syria proudly maintained a literacy rate of 90% among both men and women. Now, due to conflict, “large numbers of children unable to access education opportunities are at risk of becoming illiterate,” the NRC reported.
These global conflicts affect young girls especially. The Middle East Monitor states that young girls on their way to and from school have become the sexual assault victims of militant groups. The GCPEA report found that, “girls and women were the targets of attacks on education because of their gender in at least 18 of the 28 countries profiled.” The fear of attack or assault is often a factor in what causes families to scale back their child’s education. In other cases, families decide that a young marriage is the best way to prevent their daughters from being attacked or assaulted. Of course, this means that the girls need to be pulled out of school.
There was no corporate news coverage of the publication of the GCPEA report, which provides citizens with data and statistics regarding a lack of education for many. Fox News, the New York Times, and CNN have addressed the absence of education in Syria, but do not accurately represent the conflict and its origins. Instead, these mainstream outlets help to push the agenda that the US is concerned about the state of education in war torn countries like Syria without pointing out that the United States has failed to provide support to amend the situation. The US corporate media has reflected this failure to improve global education as they failed to cover the GCPEA report. The Middle East Monitor and the Norwegian Refugee Council offer hope as to how education can be made accessible to students in Syria, rather than just citing data and ignoring responsibility for the source of the problem. Education can prevent conflicts and promote understanding, which may be why educational institutions are such common targets in war zones. As far as corporate media goes, there is very little coverage regarding the issue of inaccessible education as a whole.
Mubarak Nasser Al-Thani, “On World Refugee Day, Schools are under Attack,” Middle East Monitor, June 20, 2018, www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180620-on-world-refugee-day-schools-are-under-attack/.
Kristine Kolstad, “Accessing Education in the Midst of the Syria Crisis,” Norwegian Refugee Council, April 26, 2018, www.nrc.no/news/2018/april/accessing-education-in-the-midst-of-the-syria-crisis/.
Student Researchers: Brian Casali, Chantel Cohen, Sina Duncan, Courtney Ocasal (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)