How war and years of lost education have devastated Syrian children — and what can be done to help

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s return to the war in Syria, and focus on the effect it is having on children.

The schools have been devastated. More than a third have closed since the war began. And a recent report by the International Rescue Committee found more than 1.7 million children and youth are not attending classes.

That is the focus of our weekly segment Making the Grade.

And we’re joined by David Miliband the president of the International Rescue Committee. He recently visited the region and refugee children in Lebanon.

David Miliband, welcome back to the program.

We know this war has taken a terrible toll on lives in so many ways, but what is the main finding of your report on the effect on children and their ability to learn?

DAVID MILIBAND, CEO, International Rescue Committee: Thank you, Judy.

Well, the situation inside Syria is obviously top of the news because of the crushing and appalling chemical weapons attacks last week. But the long-term impact of six years of war on about 1.7 million children inside the country who are being denied education is obviously very grave indeed.

There is the fundamental stress, what is called the toxic stress, of being involved in a war. And for those inside the country, they’re denied the most basic access to education.

Obviously, that problem is doubled by the experience of the refugees who are out of the country, 5.5 million refugees out of the country, half of them kids, probably half of those not getting an education at all.

So, it is true to talk about a generation of Syrian schoolchildren being denied the most basic elements of an education. And, of course, that stands in stark contrast to the fact that they would have expected, in a middle-income country, which Syria was before 2011, to get a decent education.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does this mean? Based on this report that the International Rescue Committee has put together, what does this mean specifically in terms of children’s literacy, their ability to…

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