Published On: Thu, Sep 14th, 2023

In sometimes dire circumstances, kids go back to school. See photos.

Children in many countries are going back to school, joining millions of others who started much earlier in the year. While many Northern Hemisphere countries start school around this time of year, when it is late summer or fall, much of the Southern Hemisphere operates on a different schedule because summer occurs when it is winter in the north.

Worldwide, some 1.57 billion children attend pre-K through secondary school, according to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report.

But for social, economic or cultural reasons, according to UNESCO, an estimated 244 million young people do not attend school. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most children and youths out of school — 98 million. The second-highest such population is Central and Southern Asia, with 85 million, UNESCO said. And a new report by the U.N. refugee agency said more than half of the world’s 14.8 million school-age refugee children are missing out on formal education.

Many students attend school under dire circumstances. In wartime Ukraine, where the military has been fighting invading Russian troops for more than a year, some children began the 2023-2024 school year attending class underground for security reasons. According to the nonprofit organization Save the Children, more than 40 percent of children in Ukraine will have to rely partly or entirely on online or hybrid learning due to fear of airstrikes and a lack of bomb shelters.

In Yemen, where nearly a decade of war has left 21.6 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection, more than 2.5 million children are not attending school, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. More than 2,900 schools — at least a quarter of those in the country — have been destroyed, damaged or used for noneducational purposes, according to estimates by the organizers in Yemen of the U.N. International Day to Protect Education from Attack, an annual event to call attention to the war’s effects on children and their education.

Those are just two of at least 37 countries where the nonprofit Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack says “there is a pattern of attacks on education by state security forces and non-state armed groups.” Jerome Marston, a senior researcher at the coalition, said on a New Lines Institute podcast that in some places, “government forces or non-state armed groups intentionally burn or loot schools or universities or target them with explosives because they oppose a certain type of instruction, such as Western, quote-unquote, education or girls learning.”

“In other conflicts,” he said, “armed groups view schools and their students and personnel as agents or symbols of a government that they oppose, and so they boycott or attack them. In yet other places, government forces and non-state armed groups occupy schools and universities and use them for tactical purposes, for example as bases, barracks, interrogation centers or for recruiting children.”

In the United States, the return of school has brought problems with excessive heat in classrooms that lack air conditioning and shortages of teachers, bus drivers and other staff, as well as security and other concerns.

Here are some photos from countries around the world as a new school year starts.

Kharkiv’s subways are now classrooms as school starts under Russian attacks

New York City’s shelter system stressed by thousands of migrants

Schools are swamped by unpaid lunch debt, nutrition group says

President Biden visits D.C. middle school to mark the start of classes

The heat wave is shutting schools down just as kids return to class

With too few bus drivers, schools struggle to get kids to class

Schools in England could collapse due to weak concrete: What to know

Where learning is against the law: A secret school for Afghan girls

As Afghan schools remain closed for girls, mental health crisis builds

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