Syria: A potential disaster

Matthew Hay Brown, for the Pulitzer Center
Damascus, Syria

Of Mustafa Hamad's 10 children, seven are old enough to go to school. Only four do.

The Iraqi Kurd, who brought his family here from Baghdad last year, is surviving on assistance from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and remittances from a brother-in-law who lives in Britain. He says he can't afford school fees for three of his daughters.

Interruptions in the education of school-aged children are a major concern in any refugee crisis. The Syrian government, like others in the region, has opened its public schools to the Iraqis that have flooded the country. But the UNHCR office here estimates that only one in five children are attending.

Officials worry what the preponderance of Iraqi children now going unschooled will mean for the future of Iraq.

"That's potentially diastrous to the country, to lose generations like that," Imran Riza, the UNHCR representative in Iraq, told me last week in Amman.