No School To Go Back To: The Impact of Airstrikes on Syria's Schools


The threat of an 'Illiterate generation' of Syrian Children in Idlib is rising and peaceful political settlement is becoming impossible, as schools are on front line of Syrian conflict says Syria Relief

Syria Relief have released a report today detailing the devastating impact the deliberate targeting of schools is having on Syrian children, the wider education system and the future economy. In No School To Go Back To: The Impact of Airstrikes on Syria's Schools, Syria Relief, the largest Syria-focused NGO in the UK, states that they believe illiteracy is on the rise in areas like Idlib, where schools are on the front line and are frequently targeted for deliberate attacks. This mean that many children do not attend school out of fear, or schools have to cease operation partially or altogether and NGOs and education providers are having to use resources to remedy symptoms of the conflict, as opposed to focusing solely on the provision of quality education.

Throughout Syria, 40% of schools have been damaged or destroyed. A quarter of the 800 people reported to have been killed in the ongoing Idlib campaign have been children. Since the offensive in Idlib started on April 30th, Syria Relief have seen 4 of the 55 schools they run in Syria deliberately targeted by air strikes.

As well as the increased threat of rising illiteracy in conflict areas, Syria Relief also state in the report that:

  • A political settlement to peace will become impossible, as targeting schools will only embitter the population to the forces who continue to flout international law through the destruction of schools
  • Girls and children with disabilities are put at a greater disadvantage, due to the tendency of regressive attitudes to prevail when children are out of education
  • Teachers and children are attending school less, due to fear that the classroom is no longer safe due to the bombing campaign
  • NGO resources are being spent on trying to address the huge need for psychosocial support for the thousands of children suffering from mental trauma that comes from growing up in a war zone, to tackle the increasing likelihood that children will fall out of school and struggle to learn at the same pace as other children, due to severe trauma

Syria Relief use the report document to highlight the devastation that constant attacks on education are having on Syrian children and the entire population of the country. Syria Relief are making the following calls:

  • For all military actors in the conflict to stop targeting schools with air raids and to go to greater efforts to avoid bombing schools
  • That external governments who ally themselves with the actors in the conflict to pressure the belligerents into avoiding the targeting of schools
  • For all actors claiming to be legitimate governments of Syria, or parts of Syria, to pass legislation which brings them in line with the 2015 Safe Schools Declaration, as well as International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law
  • For host countries to provide an education that will provide their Syrian refugee communities with an education which will allow them to gain skilled jobs and enter the workforce on their eventual return to Syria
  • For more funding from both the international community and the general public for education projects within Syria, to combat the growing potential of a 'lost generation'

No School To Go Back To: The Impact of Airstrikes on Syria's Schools, authored by Charles Lawley with a foreword by Chief Executive Othman Moqbel, has been released to coincide with the majority children in the UK going back to school in the first week of September 2019.

Othman Moqbel, Syria Relief's Chief Executive, says:

"Education facilities are no longer places where children can feel safe, they are places where they fear death. However, avoiding school also has tragic consequences for a child; if a child is out of education then their potential is under severe threat, too. Some parents in Syria are forced to choose between risking their child's life by sending them to school or risking their future by not sending them. Destroying a school is in no one's interest and we need to ensure it stops happening. Now.

"Today, in the UK, hundreds of thousands of children will start school for the first time to gain the knowledge and skills to one day take over from our generation and be our nation's leaders. In Syria, it is the next generation who will lead them in peacetime. The future for Syria as a nation, a society and economy is only as bright as the future of its children. However, the bombs dropped on Syria may ignite fires, but it extinguishes hope."

Notes to editors

Syria Relief are the largest Syria-focused based NGO in the UK. Last year alone, Syria Relief distributed hundreds of millions worth of aid across Syria and helping approximately 2.4 million people in Syria. Their projects include:

  • Running 3 hospitals, a mobile clinic, 4 primary health centres, 7 family planning clinics and a prosthetic limbs centre, helping over 250,000 people each year.
  • Running 55 schools, with organisations such as Save the Children, EU OCHA, Read Foundation and UNICEF, helping nearly 13,000 children.
  • Providing vocation training, cash for work and small business support and rehabilitation of farming, oil production and water treatment, helping nearly 20,000 people
  • Providing clean water facilities for over 1.5 million people

Othman Moqbel and Syria Relief representatives are available for interview. Please contact Head of Advocacy & Public Relations Charles Lawley on or call 07535 415 060

Images of the damage done to Syria Relief's schools and images from the ongoing campaign in Idlib are available here to accompany the story: