Activists in the town of Maarat al-Numan in the northern Syrian province of Idlib have recently launched an awareness campaign to encourage children to attend school and put an end to their recruitment by armed groups.
Activists told Diyaruna the campaign comes in response to the notably high dropout rate in schools.
A group of media and social activists in Maarat al-Numan launched the "Education is my Weapon" campaign last month, an advertising and media campaign that aims to push children -- and their parents -- to reject recruitment in the ranks of armed groups by encouraging school attendance, activist Hani al-Numan told Diyaruna.
The campaign has begun circulating and posting advertisements in the streets of Maarat al-Numan on the importance of education as "the weapon of the future and main tool for spreading peace", al-Numan said.
Seminars were held for parents to acquaint them with the school dropout phenomenon and its causes, with focus on the catastrophic consequences on children and the future of Syria, he said.
"Armed groups play a negative role by promoting child recruitment into their ranks, a phenomenon that has spread since the outbreak of war in Syria," he said.
Another cause for school dropouts is "the unstable security situation in the region due to the constant shelling and airstrikes by regime forces and infighting between opposition factions that control the region", he added.
The main reason, however, remains the dire economic situation experienced by most families in the Idlib region, he said, as most heads of households have lost their businesses and jobs.
Internally displaced people (IDPs) who were moved from other areas of Syria to Idlib were the hardest hit, al-Numan said, as schools were unable to accommodate the sudden surge in the number of school-age children.
"This has had a clear impact on the school dropout rate," he added.