An Entire Generation Is Missing Out On An Education Because Of This

Destruction, violence, death. We often hear about those very real and heartbreaking consequences of conflicts across the globe.

But one very crucial cost of war and strife that deserves the world's attention: the impact on children's education.

New figures released by UNICEF this week capture the seriousness of the issue in no uncertain terms: an estimated 24 million children worldwide are kept out of the classroom because of conflict.

That staggering number represents one in four children between the ages of 6 and 15 living in war-torn areas, like Syria and South Sudan.

“Children living in countries affected by conflict have lost their homes, family members, friends, safety, and routine," UNICEF Chief of Education Jo Bourne said in a statement. "Now, unable to learn even the basic reading and writing skills, they are at risk of losing their futures and missing out on the opportunity to contribute to their economies and societies when they reach adulthood."

As shocking as the numbers are, they may not cover the full "breadth and depth of the challenge," UNICEF says — gathering complete and accurate data from conflict areas is a difficult task.

But it is abundently clear that all those missed days, weeks, and years of school can have lasting consequences. Children who aren't in school, for example, face an "increased danger of abuse, exploitation, and recruitment into armed groups," Bourne added.

Improving access to education for children across the globe, including those kept out of the classroom by conflicts, is on the radar of some of the world's most powerful leaders. In October, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of long-term goals that include getting more kids — and girls in particular — into the classroom. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai perfectly captured why urgent action is needed when she addressed the General Assembly at the time.

"Education is not a privilege, education is a right," she said. "Education is peace."

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