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The cost of war: Calculating the impact of the collapse of Syria’s education system on the country’s future

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As we approach the fourth anniversary of the war in Syria, almost 3 million Syrian children are out of school, putting them at risk of exploitation and threatening their futures. Unless this situation is urgently addressed, the prospects for eventual peace, stability and economic prosperity in Syria look uncertain.

A slow and silent assault on a child is committed each time their right to education is denied. Now new analysis by Save the Children, CfBT Education Trust (CfBT) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) also highlights the devastating economic cost that 2.8 million children missing school is likely to have both on Syria’s children themselves and on the future of their country.

We estimate the direct costs of replacing damaged, destroyed or occupied schools and lost school equipment could be as high as £2 billion ($3 billion). Importantly, we estimate that the long-term impact on Syria’s economy of 2.8 million Syrian children never returning to school could be as much as 5.4% of gross domestic product (GDP), which equates to almost £1.5 billion ($2.18 billion).

Save the Children is calling on donors, countries that host refugee children from Syria, parties to the conflict in Syria and the international community as a whole to make 2015 the year that we get Syrian children’s futures back on track. They must urgently:

• prioritise education as a key component of the Syria crisis response and fully fund the UN Appeals of $224 million required for education for Syria and the $445 million required for the region at the ‘Kuwait III’ donor conference at the end of March

• call on the champions of the No Lost Generation Initiative – including humanitarian and development partners from the UK, USA, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as regional governments – to develop a new ‘No Lost Generation’ strategy for 2015–18, with a comprehensive and fully costed education and protection plan for Syria’s children – both those who have become refugees and those who remain inside Syria

• work together to ensure that key barriers to Syrian children’s access to education inside Syria and in the region are addressed

• press for the implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict and an end to attacks on education in Syria, and ensure that schools are safe places for children.