Sun 26-May-2024

The School Year in Gaza: A gloomy picture and an unknown fate

Tuesday 16-April-2024


Among many fears facing young girl Areej Hamada, including living in a tent in Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, and the loss of several of her relatives amidst the ongoing Israeli destructive war for the seventh consecutive month, she doesn’t hide her concern about losing her academic year. She had aspirations for excellence and to study medicine.

Hamada told the PIC, “The war broke out about a month after we started studying. I had set a plan for myself to achieve the excellence I was used to, and even in the early days of the war, I continued studying hoping it would stop and we would return to school.”

She added, “But as the weeks passed, I lost many of my family members, and we were forced to flee and live in a tent, and our house was destroyed. The day we fled, I took some of my books with me, but my desk and all my notebooks were under the rubble, just like my ambitions.”

Great educational loss

As for the child Mohammed Mahmoud (7 years old) from Khan Younis city in southern Gaza Strip, he was starting his first school year with enthusiasm and hope before the most violent war erupted in Gaza Strip, rendering his academic future uncertain like his peers in the besieged enclave.

Mohammed told the PIC innocently that he misses his school and his teacher, and he hasn’t been happy about his school yet.

All Mohammed wishes for is an end to the genocide war in Gaza Strip, and for him and his peers to return to school, starting their journey of knowledge and education, towards achieving their goals and hopes.

His father said, “The damage is immense,” adding, “For years, our children have suffered a great educational loss. Wars, (COVID-19), and now an unprecedented war.”

Since the start of the Israeli war on October 7, thousands of students and teachers have been killed, and hundreds of schools have been destroyed or turned into shelters, depriving more than 625,000 students in Gaza of continuing their education.

Many parents and students fear that this academic year has ended, not knowing what awaits them with the Israeli government’s threats to continue the war for more months, and the absence of a clear plan for the fate of the academic year.

Students in the Gaza Strip usually prepare during May and June to take final exams for the academic year, making Gaza students practically lose their academic year.

Loss of dreams

Maisara Abu Al-Atta, Nada’s mother, who is a high school student, says she is worried about her daughter’s future, who planned to become a doctor.

“Education will not return quickly, because everything has been destroyed. They killed people, students, and teachers, bombed schools and universities. There is no place for displaced people except schools. How long do we have to wait for our children to return to school?” Abu Al-Atta adds.

While the issue seems complicated and lengthy, not only linked to the end of the war, many are concerned about losing the entire academic year. The Israeli war has so far damaged 75% of the school buildings in Gaza Strip.

A gloomy picture

A statement issued by UNRWA, UNESCO, and UNICEF stated that a safe return to education in Gaza is linked to ending the war there.

Mahmoud Alwan, who works in a government school in Khan Younis city, says that the current school year cannot be saved in any way.

He added, “Schools are no longer fit. Gaza is no longer fit for life. The situation is complicated.”

Al-Attal, who, like 22,000 teachers, lost their only source of income, accuses Israel of deliberately targeting education. He said, “It’s not just schools. They destroyed universities on purpose and killed many academic figures. It’s a war on education as well.”

Many specialists paint a gloomy picture of the education situation, as it is not only about high school students, but younger students face a big problem related to the possible loss of a year of their lives, or being promoted to higher grades with significant educational loss, while university students have lost a whole academic year, perhaps more, amid the bombing and complete destruction of major universities in Gaza.

Ahmed Lafi, director of education in Rafah city, talks about the future of the educational process, saying, “The picture is gloomy, and no one can predict the future of this process until the war completely subsides.”

He added, “It is unimaginable what education will be like, with all schools occupied by displaced people, or completely or partially destroyed due to Israeli targeting,” believing that the biggest danger is facing high school students who have only sat in classrooms for just one month, and “these students’ future is unknown, as they are taking unified exams across Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.”

Lafi believes that it is impossible to imagine the available scenarios later to rescue the educational process, including online education, considering it extremely complicated in the face of the massive destruction of residential homes and facilities, the lack of electricity, and the deterioration of communication and internet services.

Mass killings

The Palestinian Ministry of Education revealed that 5,424 students were killed and 9,193 were injured since the start of the Israeli aggression on Gaza Strip and the West Bank on October 7.

The ministry said in a statement that the number of students who were killed in Gaza Strip since the start of the aggression reached more than 5,379, while the number of injured reached 8,888, explaining that the martyrs of the West Bank students reached 48 students, and the number of injured reached 305, in addition to the arrest of 97.

As for teachers and administrators, 255 were killed and 891 others were injured in Gaza Strip, while in the West Bank, 6 were injured, and more than 73 were arrested.

The ministry’s statement indicated that 286 government schools and 65 belonging to the UNRWA were subjected to bombing and sabotage in Gaza Strip, leading to 111 of them suffering severe damages, and 40 being completely destroyed, while 57 schools in the West Bank were raided and sabotaged, and 133 government schools were used as shelters in Gaza Strip.

The statement affirmed that 620,000 students in Gaza Strip are still deprived of joining their schools since the beginning of the aggression, while most students suffer psychological traumas and difficult health conditions.

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