30 October 2015 – The staggered start of the academic year in Iraq concludes this week with close to two million children nationwide out of school. An additional 1.2 million children are at risk of dropping out. 

“The impact of conflict, violence and displacement on education in Iraq is nothing short of devastating,” said Peter Hawkins, Unicef’s Representative in Iraq. “Large numbers of children – those in host communities, displaced from their homes, as well as refugee children from Syria – continue to experience significant disruptions to their education, putting Iraq at risk of losing an entire generation to conflict.”

Continuing violence has negatively impacted children’s access to education. Nearly one million children remain displaced, 70% of whom have already lost an entire year of school. 

More than 5,300 schools across the country – nearly one in five – cannot be used because they have been destroyed, damaged, converted to shelter for displaced families or used for military purposes by parties to the conflict. In the past year alone 67 attacks on schools and education personnel were reported. Of those schools that remain in use, thousands are overburdened, with class sizes reaching as high as 60 students, and operating in two or three shifts daily, which significantly reduces the amount of time children have to learn. Meanwhile, teachers tell their own story of loss and survival. In northern Iraq, nearly 14,000 teachers have been forced to flee violence. 

“It is remarkable to see children and teachers across the country travel long distances, often risking their lives, in order to reach school and accomplish their goals,” said Hawkins. 

In the last year and as part of the overall response to the crisis in Iraq, Unicef and partners have provided access to education to nearly half a million children through the following activities:

  • Built 40 new schools and installed 141 prefabricated classrooms across the country; 
  • Established 1,585 temporary learning spaces, enabling more than 220,000 displaced children to continue their education;
  • Distributed learning materials (stationery, notebooks, schoolbags and other items) to more than 200,000 children and; 
  • Distributed cholera prevention materials (story books, posters and pamphlets) to 5,000 schools. Unicef is coordinating with Government partners to distribute these materials to additional schools across the country during the first weeks of the school year.

Unicef is committed to increase children’s access to education in Iraq. In order to be able to continue responding to children’s needs in education, Unicef requires £44 million by the end of the year of which £7.8 million are needed immediately.


Notes for editors:

Unicef UK believes no child should have to risk their life to get an education. Yet in the global humanitarian response, life-saving protection from violence and the protection of schools as safe spaces isn’t prioritised in the same way as water, shelter and medicine. This needs to change.

At the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in May, we can change how the world responds to children in emergencies. The UK Government must make protecting children from violence a priority.

Ahead of the summit, Unicef UK is calling on the UK Government to show its leadership – including by committing to protect schools so that children can learn, play and escape the horrors of war, making sure that schools are never attacked or taken over for military use.

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk