Today UNICEF’s Representative for oPt, Patricia McPhillips, visited Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, where two UNICEF tents are serving as temporary learning spaces for girls, whose school was completely destroyed. The girls are attending classes during the afternoon shift. Four additional tents will be set up in the coming days to accommodate additional students.
“UNICEF is working with partners to establish safe areas and to supply educational material for children in Gaza,” said Ms. Patricia McPhillips. “The return to school provides an important opportunity for children to interact, play, rebuild their routines, and overcome distress.”
On 26 January, UNICEF supplied Gaza with 130 school-in-a-box kits, which include items such as exercise books, pens and pencils, to cater for 10,400 school-aged children. In addition, UNICEF provided 84 recreational kits, containing sports and other entertaining items, for 6,720 children, 42 Mathematics and 42 Science kits for 4,200 students. UNICEF has also supplied the Ministry of Education with 12,000 water bottles targeting an equal number of school students.
Reports so far estimate that seven schools were completely destroyed, and many more were damaged. Educational material, including text books and stationary were also lost. Schools are operating in double - even triple shifts - to accommodate those children, whose schools were destroyed.
UNICEF is concerned about the risk of unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a result of the conflict, and has advocated for the clearance of school areas as a priority. UNICEF is raising awareness of the dangers of UXO through a number of materials being distributed, the broadcasting of messages on radio spots, and the printing of UXO messages on games for children.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Education reported an 80 per cent attendance at their schools. Around 450,000 children attend schools, including 373 government schools, 214 UNRWA-operated schools, and another 34 private schools. UNRWA provides schooling for over 196,000 children in Gaza.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.