The children of Martha Nyacong, who attends an adult learning session in a UNICEF supported school in the POC, walk to school with UNICEF school bags in Bor, capital of Jonglei State in South Sudan Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. The UNICEF supported school opens in the afternoons and the teachers volunteer to take adult literacy classes.

More than half of children in war ravaged South Sudan are not in school, the highest proportion in any country, UN children’s agency Unicef has said.

Niger is a close second, with 47% unable to attend school, followed by Sudan (41%) and Afghanistan (40%) and according to Unicef, some 24 million children of more than 109 million living in nations at war are not in school worldwide.

In South Sudan government forces have been battling rebels for the past two years, but according to Unicef, even before the conflict began 1.4 million children were already missing class.

Since the war broke out in December 2013, more than 800 schools have been demolished and more than 400,000 children had to abandon their classrooms, the agency said.

Only one in 10 South Sudanese students who enter school finish primary education amid a shortage of facilities and trained teachers, said Phuong T Nguyen, Unicef’s chief of education for South Sudan.

“There is a very, very low budget from the government to the education sector,” she said, adding: “It is not holding steady and we see a decline.”

Enrolment went up from under 30% after South Sudan became independent in 2011, but the war and a lack of school buildings and qualified teachers have slowed the growth, a South Sudanese official was quoted by the media as saying.