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Christian charity finds school violence adds trauma for Syria's war-scarred children

by Tola Mbakwe

World Vision released a report on Thursday that revealed that 67 per cent of displaced children in southern Syria suffer violence at school and that nine in ten children were getting no support in school to deal with their emotional trauma and social isolation.

Wynn Flaten, World Vision's Syria Crisis response director told Premier: "One of the other things we found when they get to school, many of the teachers have been in the same situations they have. Teachers face temptation to use violence in the classroom."

The international children's charity asked more than 400 displaced children in southern Syria about their daily struggles and hardships in February. Nearly seven in ten children reported psychologically damaging experiences of physical and verbal abuse and aggression at school.

The charity's report Beyond Survival found the majority of the 11-17 year old children surveyed were surviving under severe stress. Pressure-factors included violence at school, domestic abuse, criminal acts and other factors.

The survey also found children are struggling with poverty, malnutrition, displacement and overcrowded housing.

World Vision
Akkar province in northern Lebanon is now home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian families who fled the ongoing clashes. World Vision has built an early childhood education centre there, hosting children from 3 to 6 years old.

Flaten told Premier a lot of violence that occured at home was partly due to "stress that's put on families when family members die".

He added: "The impact of continuing stress on children who have endured years of warfare, violence and poverty can devastate the rest of their lives. It can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, toxic stress, depression, anxiety and reduced resilience and tip into long-term mental illness and physical ailments.

"These children desperately need safe places where they can recover from their horrific experiences. The longer they lack that security, the worse the damage to their mental and physical health."

World Vision
A Syrian refugee boy does homework sitting on the ground at Rajab, an Informal Tented Settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley that houses Syrian refugees.

World Vision has urged the UK government to prioritise education, child protection and mental health in the funds it has pledged to the Syrian crisis.

The publication of the report coincides with World Vision's launch on Thursday of an exclusive virtual reality experience in partnership with the broadcaster Al Jazeera.

The film was captured by Syrian children in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, and shows what life is like as a refugee through their eyes.

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