Many more in school but many still out

The number of primary-school-age children who go to school has increased globally, but countries affected by conflict still have large numbers missing out on an education, states a new report.

Of the 72 million children out of school [down from 115 million in 2006], 39 million live in conflict-affected countries, according to The Future is Now report, published on 11 May by the Save the Children Alliance.

"As well as killing and injuring millions of children, conflict forces millions of families to flee their homes, separates children from their families, and destroys education,” it notes.

In Liberia, 73 percent are out of school, and in Somalia 81 percent have no access to education. In Afghanistan’s Uruzgan, Helmand and Badges provinces, 80 percent are in the same boat. “Without urgent action to help these hardest-to-reach children, Millennium Development Goal Two – that all children get a full course of primary schooling by 2015 – will not be met,” the report warned.

Conflict affects education in various ways. In the Democratic Republic of Congo's Equateur Province, worried parents kept their children at home in April because militias were at large, local officials told IRIN.

In South Kivu Province, hundreds missed examinations in April because of battles between rival militia factions. In Yemen in May, rebels occupied a number of schools in the northern Saada governorate, preventing thousands of children from attending classes, according to an IRIN report. In Pakistan, 356 schools were destroyed by militias in Swat District.

In Southern Sudan, only 14 percent of the children attended school during two decades of conflict that ended in 2005, according to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF. In Angola, at least two million have enrolled in school but 1.2 million are still out, yet only 54 percent complete primary school. Similarly in Iraq, 22 percent of school-going age children failed to attend school in 2007. A study by the education ministry and UNICEF, found that 77 percent of these were female.