AS the summer holidays draw to a close, children and young people will soon be streaming back to school across the country. Children up to

14 years old account for around 16% of the population in Scotland, according to the 2011 census, and nearly every child of school age in Scotland receives an education.

Furthermore, most do with virtually no threat of their lives being upended by war or conflict.

But not all children grow up in these conditions. In many countries experiencing conflict, the proportion of the population aged 14 and younger is significantly higher than in Scotland. Yemen’s youth population, racked by conflict, food shortages and disease, is nearly 40% of the total. These young people will inherit their war-torn country, and will be responsible for its future.

There are nearly 25.9 million refugees worldwide, and a staggering half of them are under 18 years old. This does not take into account some 41 million internally displaced people and 3.5 million asylum seekers. Globally, one in 10 children live in conflict zones and 24 million are out of school. That’s more than four times the population of Scotland out of education and living amid war.

Beyond the simple fact that no child should have to endure these circumstances, these huge numbers of displaced young people may have a knock-on effect.

Without stability and support, adolescent refugees often suffer from acute mental health issues, and the isolation and trauma of their situations may push them towards high-risk or even violent behaviour.

These young people, scarred by their experiences, will be less able to realise their own potential, to pursue the lives they want or to positively impact their already uprooted and shattered communities.

At Mercy Corps, we’re committed to helping young people deal with their displacement and build their prospects.

Our safe spaces programmes in refugee camps in Jordan help adolescent refugees learn life and leadership skills and have a positive impact on their social networks and ties, feelings of security and hopes for the future.

What some might term “softer skills” are vital to adolescents as they build new communities.

International Youth Day, on August 12, is the recognised United Nations day focused on young people, the challenges they face – and the possibilities they have.

With the theme of inclusive education this year, it is a reminder that all education and youth programmes should leave no one behind. That’s why in Jordan,

Mercy Corps team members build tailored equipment for children with special needs so that they can access education, even while they are living in a refugee camp.

The benefits of schooling are immense. Every year of education completed makes young people more likely to succeed. These effects are often more pronounced for girls in gender-unequal societies.

According to the World Bank, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages later in life. Displacement, family needs and social pressures may stop young people from physically attending school, but it doesn’t mean they have to stop their education entirely.

As Suwaiba in Nigeria told us: “I can still recall the day Boko Haram invaded Gombe.

“I was in school and they had to rush to come get me. While we were running people were falling, there were bullets flying everywhere. It was chaos.”

Suwaiba began to participate in a Mercy Corps’ girls group in her community, which offer a safe space for girls to gather, learn and recover from crisis.

Suwaiba absorbed the lessons and now shares her knowledge with others. She independently built her own safe space from the ground up, identified girls from her community and began teaching from home, before the local mosque offered her the use of the classroom.

Suwaiba has blossomed into the young leader her community needs.

Mercy Corps is at the forefront of supporting young people around the world to fulfil their potential, but we can’t act alone.

The shocking number of youth experiencing displacement, conflict and fragility globally will only increase unless the root causes of conflict are addressed and the urgent needs of affected young people are met.

As school uniforms make their return across our country, please spare a thought for the many millions of young people who need our support to access education, empowerment and their own stronger future.

Michael McKean is senior director of programmes, Mercy Corps