Updated in: 24 June 2024 - 15:55
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For the children of Gaza, war means no school

The disruption caused by the Israeli war in Gaza has left many children without access to proper education opportunities.
News ID: 84558
Publish Date: 20May 2024 - 10:41

For the children of Gaza, war means no schoolTEHRAN (defapress) - Since Israel launched the war on October 7, all of Gaza's schools have closed — leaving hundreds of thousands of students without formal schooling or a safe place to spend their days.

Aid groups are scrambling to keep children off the streets and their minds focused on something other than the war, as heavy fighting continues across the enclave and has expanded into the southern city of Rafah and intensified in the north.

“What we’ve lost most is the future of our children and their education,” said Irada Ismael, Atef’s grandmother. "Houses and walls are rebuilt, money can be earned again ... but how do I compensate for (his) education?”

Gaza faces a humanitarian crisis, with the head of the UN's World Food Program determining a "full-blown famine" is already underway in the north.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

About 80 percent of Gaza’s population has been driven from homes. Much of Gaza is damaged or destroyed, including nearly 90 percent of school buildings, according to aid group estimates.

Children are among the most severely affected, with the UN estimating some 19,000 children have been orphaned and nearly a third under the age of 2 face acute malnutrition.

In emergencies, education takes a back seat to safety, health, and sanitation, say education experts, but the consequences are lasting.

“The immediate focus during conflict isn’t on education, but the disruption has an incredibly long-term effect,” said Sonia Ben Jaafar, of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on education in the Arab world.

“The cost at this point is immeasurable.”

Before the war, Gaza was home to more than 625,000 students and some 20,000 teachers in its highly literate population, according to the UN. In other conflicts, aid groups can create safe spaces for children in neighboring countries — for example, Poland for shelter and schooling during the war in Ukraine; but that is not possible in Gaza.

“They’re unable to flee, and they remain in an area that continues to be battered," said Tess Ingram, of UNICEF. "It’s very hard to provide them with certain services, such as mental health and psychosocial support or consistent education and learning.”

Aid groups hope classes will resume by September. But even if a ceasefire is brokered, much of Gaza must be cleared of mines, and rebuilding schools could take years.

In the interim, aid groups provide recreational activities — games, drawing, drama, art — not for a curriculum-based education but to keep children engaged and in a routine, in an effort for normalcy. Even then, advocates say, attention often turns to the war. 

Lack of free spaces

Finding free space is among the biggest challenges. Some volunteers use the outdoors, make do inside tents where people live, or find a room in homes still standing. 

It took volunteer teachers more than two months to clear one room in a school in Deir al Balah to give ad hoc classes to children. Getting simple supplies such as footballs and stationery into Gaza can also take months, groups report.

“Having safe spaces for children to gather to play and learn is an important step," Ingram said, but “ultimately the children of Gaza must be able to return to learning curriculum from teachers in classrooms, with education materials and all the other support schooling provides.”

This month, UNICEF had planned to erect at least 50 tents for some 6,000 children from preschool to grade 12 for play-based numbers and literacy learning in Rafah. But UNICEF says those plans could be disrupted by Israel's operation there.

Lack of schooling can take a psychological toll — it disrupts daily life and, compounded with conflict, makes children more prone to anxiety and nervousness, said Jesus Miguel Perez Cazorla, a mental health expert with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Even some parents try to find small ways to teach their children, scrounging for notebooks and pens and insisting they learn something as small as a new word each day. But many find the kids are too distracted, with the world around them at war.

In the end, the educational future of Gaza kids is in danger of destruction but all UNICEF plans have been stopped because of Zionist army invasions. 


Source: TRT 


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