A New School Year; Not for Children in Gaza
Following the trauma and repercussions of the latest Israeli aggression, the children of Gaza are now deprived of experiencing the joy and excitement of going back to school.
First comes the Israeli airstrike, then the painful moment when someone’s life collapses into rubble. The latest Israeli aggression on Gaza between May 10 and 21 2021 has directly shattered the reality of approximately 2.1 million Palestinians.
Speaking to Al Mayadeen English, Alaa Shamaly, a Palestinian journalist, affirmed that most of Gaza still lies in ruins. “Buildings have been razed to the ground. Around 2,400 housing units have become uninhabitable, not to mention the destruction of over 2,000 industrial, trade and service facilities across the seaside territory," he said.
“Schools were also a target”, Shamaly confirmed.
Through the rubble
It’s September, and schools are about to kick off. Many children around the world are getting ready to join their classes and friends with joyful emotions, after choosing their favorite bags and supplies. Yet, for the children of Gaza, education remains an inaccessible right; a privilege they can't attain. As a result of the last Israeli aggression, these children are deprived of experiencing the joy and excitement of going back to school.
Several international and local humanitarian organizations have described the Israeli attack on schools in Gaza as a grave violation against the children of Gaza.
Jason Lee, Save the Children's Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said:
"The destruction of schools is an abomination. Sites of learning, opportunity, play, and fun for children have swiftly transformed into refuges from the bombing as homes have been destroyed and families ripped apart -- and sadly the numbers of schools being destroyed show that even here, there is nowhere to hide. One in 15 schools in Gaza has now been damaged. With every school that is damaged or destroyed, children's prospects of experiencing---and building---a better future diminish.*
186 schools (136 public, 13 private, and 37 UNRWA) sustained damage in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza in May 2021, according to a recent report by Global Education Cluster, knowing that most of the damaged public schools are located in West Gaza.
Furthermore, the same report added that 63 UNRWA schools used as Designated Emergency Shelter (DES) reported minor damage.
Damaged UNRWA schools were mainly located in Northern Gaza. The total estimated damage cost for the public schools and UNRWA educational facilities, including schools, training centers, and DES schools amount to USD 3.41 Million.
The report went on to say that 3 Ministry of Education (MoE) directorates reported minor damages. As for UNRWA, 37 schools, Gaza Training Center (GTC), and a Rehabilitation Center for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) were partially damaged.
In addition, 80 Kindergartens sustained damage from the aggression.
An imperiled future for children in Gaza
Challenges are mounting for the families in Gaza who are struggling on all levels to provide education for their children.
Mohannad Jarousha, a father of five, has lost his house and his business in the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza. Speaking to Al Mayadeen English, Jarousha recalls the horrific moments of last May.
Mohannad was able to grab his children at the last minute before his home in Al-Jalaa tower was targeted by an Israeli airstrike. Today, he is struggling to provide them with a decent education.
"It is the beginning of the new school year," Mohannad sighed, adding, "We are incapable of providing our kids with school bags and uniforms, or even pencils."
“The future of our kids is at stake. People are not able to send their kids to school or college,” Mohannad stressed.
In shy disquietude, Taleen, Mohannad’s six-year-old daughter, who is still traumatized as a result of the Israeli brutality, expressed her hope to return to school. Taleen's losses were enormous during the latest Israeli aggression. The poor child is still mourning the loss of her friend, her home, her school, and her two cats.
This is only one scene of the bigger tragic picture in Gaza, where people face frequent electricity and internet outages, schools’ infrastructure is partially or totally destructed, and the access of schools is a daily struggle people have to go through.
“Families in Gaza mostly consist of more than one child. Amid tightened Israeli blockades, low incomes, and Covid-19 repercussions, families are in a dire situation,” Shamaly noted.
Years to heal and rebuild
Shamaly also warned that it could take years to rebuild the schools in Gaza, as is the case with all other destroyed buildings.
“It is the most intense Israeli aggression since 2014 on Gaza that has been under a long and harsh blockade since the pandemic,” Alaa Shamaly stressed.
The Palestinian journalist told Al Mayadeen English that the 2014 war was utterly disastrous, adding that “Israel's” ongoing blockade for the past 15 years is one of the most destructive means imposed on Gaza, directly affecting the education sector.
Meanwhile, international and local aid agencies have been warning that the Israeli blockade obstructs reconstruction, let alone the day-to-day life of Gazans.
By 2016, less than 10% of the homes destroyed in 2014 have been rebuilt.
“As a person who lived a similar experience in 2014, I can assume that the damage inflicted in less than two weeks will take years, if not decades, to rebuild; which means years of suffering to the people in Gaza,” Shamaly added.
Today, Gaza can barely pick up its pieces to sustain the lives of its current inhabitant after the brutal Israeli aggression. Meanwhile, “Israel's” ongoing siege and naval blockade exacerbate these issues by cutting it off from the rest of the world. The living conditions in Gaza are akin to those of an outdoor prison; a collective punishment that adds to the despair and frustration caused by the Israeli occupation.
Will the strong resilient Gaza be able to provide the right to education to its children despite all the current challenges and conditions? This question will remain unanswered as the entire world just stands there and watches in silence, doing nothing about it.