Last update: February 2023
Article 29 of the Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic stipulates that education is ‘a right guaranteed by the state, and it is free at all levels’ and that it ‘shall be compulsory until the end of basic education state’. Education is mandatory up to the 9th grade (between the ages of 6 and 15), which comprises six years of primary school and three years of lower level secondary school [Damascus 2020, 3.6, p. 32]. For a child to be enrolled in formal education and to register for national exams, civil documentation is required [Damascus 2022, 2.6, p. 32; see also 4.12.6. Lack of documentation].
The GoS is the main provider of education in most areas of Syria, with the support of international NGOs and UN agencies in some areas. Schools providing primary and secondary education, including UNRWA and private schools, are under the supervision of the Syrian Ministry of Education. Public primary and secondary school is free and one source reported that ‘no child is denied access based on his or her area of origin or ethnic background’. In some areas of the northeast of Syria, the ‘self-administration’ provides most education, such as in Raqqa and parts of Deir Ez-Zor, Aleppo, and Hasaka [Damascus 2020, 3.6, p. 34-35]. Because they are based on the Kurdish curriculum instead of the GoS’ school curriculum, Kurdish graduation certificates are not recognised in other parts of the country, therefore limiting the access of pupils to higher education [Targeting 2022, 5.2.1, p. 62].
The conflict caused a decline in access to education. Sources stated that IDP children would be facing problems in accessing education, and the same was reported for children living in northern Idlib. In arrival locations, absorption capacity was overstretched for both IDP and host communities [Targeting 2020, 12.3, pp. 95-96]. Moreover, Syrian girls and women were denied access to education because of the harmful attitudes and customs (e.g. child marriage) exacerbated by the conflict. Movement restrictions have also affected the access to education for girls in Syria [Situation of women, 1.2.8, p. 39].
UNOCHA reported in 2019 on the increase in the number of children engaged in child labour and child marriage, due to dropping out of school. It assessed that 2.1 million children were out of school and that another 1.3 million children were at risk of dropping out and that one in three schools was damaged or destroyed. [Targeting 2020, 12.3, pp. 94-96]
Moreover, sources indicated that ‘around 40 % of educational facilities have been damaged, destroyed or occupied (used as shelters for the displaced or confiscated by conflict parties)’. Schools were also used for military purposes, such as ammunition storages and as military bases and detention centres. They were repeatedly attacked by armed actors, including GoS forces, non-State armed groups and terrorist organisations, leading to scores of child casualties. In September 2019, UNOCHA reported that only half of the approximately 1 200 schools in that part of the country were functional. Another report also noted that in Idlib over 300 000 children, approximately half of the school-aged population there, were impacted by the conflict. [Targeting 2020, 12.3, pp. 94-96]
Over the year 2021, airstrikes by GoS and Russian forces struck sites with civilian presence, including schools in the north-western parts of the country. In June and July 2021, shelling and rocket attacks impacted five schools in Idlib governorate. Areas around schools are reportedly contaminated by UXO’s, such as landmines and IEDs. Schools in Aleppo governorate were also damaged as the result of the ongoing conflict. [Security 2022, 1.5.4, pp. 48, 80-81, 2.2.3, pp. 97]
The general deficiencies in the educational system as a consequence of the ongoing conflict cannot as such be considered persecution, as they are not the result of an actor’s deliberate actions. However, in the case of deliberate restrictions on access to education, it should be assessed whether it amounts to persecution.
The denial of documentation, which also may hinder access to basic education, may be linked to originating from a (former) opposition-held territory (see also 4.12.6. Lack of documentation).
The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: identification documents, gender (girls are at a higher risk), perception of traditional gender roles in the family, socio-economic situation of the child and the family, being in an IDP situation, area of origin and residence, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Where well-founded fear of persecution is substantiated, the individual circumstances of the child should be taken into account to determine whether a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated. For example, in the case of denied identity documentation due to origin from an opposition-held territory, (imputed) political opinion may apply.