Children in conflict areas desperately need an education, but violence and lack of funding finds one in four of them out of school.

A staggering 24 million kids living in conflict areas around the world are missing out on their primary education according to a new report from children’s advocacy group, UNICEF.

That number represents nearly one-quarter of the 109.2 million children ages 6 to 15 who live in 22 countries affected by conflict.

According to the Jan. 12 analysis, the highest rate of children not in school is in South Sudan, where more than half (51 percent) of school-aged children are not receiving an education. Niger followed with 47 percent, 41 percent in Sudan, and 40 percent in Afghanistan.

Because collecting information on children is difficult, especially in conflict areas, these numbers could be even higher.

Not only does education help prepare children for better lives in the future, but it protects them from dangers they currently face living in conflict areas, Jo Bourne, UNICEF Chief of Education said in a Jan. 12 statement.

“When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups,” she said

Many of these children have witnessed the destruction of their homes, the death of friends and family, and now with no schooling have lost the stability of their daily routine.

“Now, unable to learn even the basic reading and writing skills, they are at risk of losing their futures and missing out on the opportunity to contribute to their economies and societies when they reach adulthood,” she said.

Bourne said that education “equips children with the knowledge and skills to rebuild their communities once the conflict is over, and the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with the trauma they have experienced.”

Unless education for children in conflict areas is made a top priority, UNICEF fears that “a generation of children living in conflict will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their countries and economies, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families.”

The analysis said that education is consistently “one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals.” Education efforts for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, for example, faces an 89 percent funding gap.