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Millions of children in war zones missing out on education

More must be done to protect the education of children living in war zones around the world, says a new report. Schools and pupils are being targeted in fighting across the world, warns a children’s charity as one of the key findings of its report out yesterday.  As armed groups start to think of schools as symbolic, easy targets for attacks, the safety of schoolchildren in conflict-hit areas is at increasing risk.  And these risks to children carry on rising unless the international community takes urgent action to protect them, says Save the Children.

More than 90 per cent of casualties in the world's conflicts are not fighters, but ordinary people and about half of those are children, finds the report, The Future is Now. Education is under attack by armed groups, criminal gangs and even governments through school bombings and is threatened by army interference in aid work, putting children's lives in danger.  One in three children in war-torn areas does not go to school, the report says.  Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries, it finds, where between 2006 and 2009 there were 2,450 attacks on schools. In the past few weeks, poison gas attacks by the Taliban left 50 schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan unconscious and sick. As many as 80 per cent of children in the middle eastern country’s war-torn Helmand and Badghis provinces are out of school.

In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Lord's Resistance Army kidnapped 90 children from a primary and a secondary school in September 2008. And in Somalia, 81 per cent of school age children have no access to education. "It's outrageous that children and teachers are becoming more vulnerable to manipulation and attack,” said Save the Children’s Katy Webley. “They can and must be protected.” She pointed out that in Nepal, where schools were being targeted by armed groups, the organisation’s introduction of schools as ‘Zones of Peace' led to more children going to school.  "Children in conflict zones should not have to forgo an education,” Ms Webley told Reuters news service. “Their schooling is crucial not only for their personal health and development but for the future peace of their communities - with every additional year of formal schooling, a boy's risk of becoming involved with conflict falls by 20%.  The children's charity urges that any attack on a school should trigger an in-depth investigation by the United Nations Security Council. 

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