Education of Youth at Risk in Middle East

Young female students at Samangan School in Afghanistan.
Young female students at Samangan School in Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations as many as 21 million school-aged children are at risk for growing up without a basic elementary level education.
A report published jointly by the united Nations Children’s Fund and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute of Statistics states that about 25 percent of children in the Middle East are either not now attending school, or could easily drop out of school. Regional violence, poverty and discrimination against women and girls are blamed for the bleak evaluation. This news comes at a time when the region was making decent progress in the area of improving education for its youth. Over the past ten years there was as much as a 40 percent decrease in the number of children not attending school.

“At a time of such change and turmoil, this region simply cannot afford to let 21 million children fall by the wayside,” said Maria Calivis, the UNICEF regional director in the Middle East and North Africa.

The numbers include over 12 million children and teens that are not in school; 6 million that are at serious risk of dropping out; and another 3 million children in Syria and Iraq where war has devastated a large part of the educational infrastructure.

Lack of equal rights for women is also a contributing factor to the breakdown in educational opportunity for all children. The region still largely condones child marriage while also discouraging women from becoming teachers. These factors based on deeply head social attitudes drastically reduce the chances of women growing up to be educated.

“We need targeted interventions to reach the families displaced by conflict, the girls forced to stay home and the children obliged to work,” said Silvia Montoya, director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.