LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The 3-1/2-year-old conflict in Syria is preventing 2.8 million children from getting an education and has destroyed or damaged more than 3,400 schools, an international children's charity said on Thursday.
Overall enrolment in Syrian schools has halved from almost 100 percent since the crisis started, Save the Children said, adding that Syria now had the second worst rate of school attendance in the world.
The charity said education in Syria was now "one of the deadliest pursuits" for children and teachers, as schools were often hit by shelling and airstrikes. Many damaged schools have been occupied for military purposes, it added.
"It is no surprise that, under these conditions, Syrian children are dropping out of school by the day, and the international community has to step up its response to ensure that we do not lose an entire generation of children," Save the Children's regional director Roger Hearn said in a statement.
The conflict, which began as a peaceful protest movement and turned into civil war after a government crackdown, has killed more than 190,000 people.
Some three million Syrians have left as refugees, more than half of them children, and a further 3.5 million are uprooted within the country.
Save the Children said half the children it surveyed in northern Syria were 'rarely or 'never' able to concentrate in class. In another study it carried out, teachers identified more than half the children as being easily scared and 40 percent as frequently unhappy.
Syrian children who escaped to other countries are also missing out on education, with one in 10 refugee children across the region estimated to be working, the charity said.
The strain their presence is putting on school resources in host countries has led to "disturbing" rates of abuse, bullying and corporal punishment, Save the Children said.
"We have heard from children of being cursed and ridiculed by teachers in host countries, being told that they have ruined their country or to go back to Syria," Hearn said.
(Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers underreported humanitarian, human rights, corruption and climate change issues. Visit www.trust.org)
Editing by Tim Pearce