|Salina (right), 9, walks to school with friends in the Gaza Strip. Salina’s father died during the recent conflict.|
NEW YORK, USA, 29 April 2009 – While the world celebrates Global Action Week 2009 with a focus on education for all, the children of the Gaza Strip are still struggling to return to school in the aftermath of the conflict that ended there in January.
Over 150 schools were damaged in the fighting. Tents have been set up across Gaza for use as temporary classrooms. Some schools are running double shifts to accommodate students from districts without enough usable buildings.
Education aid held up
Still, more than 100 days after the end of the conflict, no major repairs have been carried out in Gaza’s schools, due to restrictions placed on the transport of materials into the territory. Although some supplies were allowed in during March, much of the needed aid – including cash to fund and supply the UN mission’s in-school feeding programme, prefabricated classrooms, teacher-training materials and early childhood development kits – is still being held up.
“No computers, no glass for the windows – there’s a shortage of textbooks,” explained UNICEF Gaza Education Officer Ibtisam Abu-Shammala. “The education is really, deeply affected.”
As of mid-April, UNICEF had distributed six small and eight large school tents to serve as temporary learning spaces for children whose classrooms were damaged. Education supplies provided so far also include:
Further exacerbating the difficulty of educating Gaza’s children is the fact that many students remain affected by the violence they witnessed.
“The first week [of the conflict], many students were traumatized because they witnessed the killing of their family members,” said Ms. Abu-Shammala. “In each school you can find a few students who were directly affected and may be traumatized – and the teachers, as well.”
UNICEF is supporting programmes to deal with these emotional and psychological effects. For example, noted Ms. Abu-Shammala, “UNICEF has provided trainers from the Ministry of Education in Jordan to come and train about 340 school counsellors in Gaza.”
Global Action Week marks the anniversary of the World Education Forum hosted in Dakar in April 2000. Its purpose is to provoke public debate about the state of education in the world, and renew the goals of the forum. Among these goals are expanding early childhood care and education; promoting the acquisition of life skills among adolescents and young people; enhancing educational quality; providing free, compulsory education; increasing adult literacy rates; and achieving gender equality by 2015.
27 April 2009: UNICEF Education Officer Ibtisam Abu-Shammala explains the obstacles to a normal school environment in Gaza.