More than 1,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict in Iraq’s Anbar province alone, according to an Iraqi official.
Anbar stretches from Iraq’s western borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all the way east along the Euphrates to the outskirts of Baghdad.
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“Anbar has been hit badly … . More than 1,500 schools have been partially or completely destroyed,” Eid Ammash, a spokesman for the provincial council, told AFP news agency.
“Most of these schools were targeted directly by the criminal gangs of Daesh.”
Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
“The others are places that Daesh used as bases and were targeted by the Iraqi security forces and the coalition air force, or were simply on the frontline of the fighting,” Ammash said.
“It will take a lot of money and at least two and a half years after Anbar is fully retaken from Daesh for these schools to be rebuilt and rehabilitated.”
He said no area was spared, with damaged schools from Karma, near Baghdad, to al-Qaim on the Syrian border, as well as in areas around the main cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Haditha.
The dire state of access to education in Anbar – the country’s biggest province – is replicated in several other regions affected by a conflict that has displaced more than three million people.
According to the latest figures from the UN, more than 70 percent of displaced children do not have access to education.
“Most schools in affected areas are overcrowded or operating in double and triple shifts to accommodate demand with limited basic classroom amenities,” the UN report said.
Besides the schools that have been destroyed or damaged, others are occupied by armed groups. Even when they are vacated, the cannot be used until cleared for unexploded ordnance.
Anbar has been rocked by violence since the beginning of 2014, months before ISIL launched a nationwide offensive that saw it conquer large explanses of the region
It is currently the main focus of the Iraqi government’s efforts to regain lost ground, with large military operations under way in several parts of the province and multiple daily air strikes by jets from the US-led coalition.