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 6 years of primary school and 3 years of lower level secondary school.
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. 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. 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’.
The conflict caused a decline in access to education. For example, 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. 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]
UNOCHA reported 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 were damaged or destroyed.
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). For example, a total of 94 schools were used as shelters by IDPs due to violence in Idlib. 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 2018, a total of 113 attacks on schools in Syria have been reported. Of these attacks, 60 were attributed to the GoS air force, 24 were attributed to government ground forces, 12 to pro-government militias, 2 to ISIL, 2 to YPG/YPJ, 1 to HTS, and 12 to unidentified elements.
UNOCHA reported in September 2019 that in northwest Syria alone, 59 individual schools were damaged by the violence since late April 2019, and that less than a half of the 650 000 school-aged children in that part of the country could be accommodated in the remaining functioning schools. The report further stated 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, was impacted by the conflict.
In southern Idlib and northern Hama, another 47 schools were also damaged or otherwise affected as the result of airstrikes and shelling since the beginning of May 2019. Other schools were affected by hostilities in northeast Syria. The UN verified two incidents that took place in October and November 2019 in which schools in Raqqa governorate were damaged by rockets and crossfire, respectively. UNICEF reported that a school in northeast Syria came under attack in October 2019, during the Turkish-led incursion.
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 a third party’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 13.6. Lack of documentation).
Not all children would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution in relation to deliberate restrictions on access to education. The individual assessment of whether or not 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, poor socio-economic situation of the child and the family, IDP situation, area of origin and residence, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
See other topics concerning children: