Over one million go back to school in occupied Palestinian territory Schools continue to fight for survival in Area “C” of the West Bank
Jerusalem, 4 September 2011 (UNICEF) - Over one million Palestinian students returned to school today in occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
In partnership with the Palestinian National Authority’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), eight United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations UNICEF, UNRWA, OCHA, UNESCO, WFP, WHO, Save the Children UK, Vento di Terra.
called attention to the particular challenges and threats undermining the right to education for children living in Area “C” of the West Bank, where near 50,000 children started their school year, including 10,000 who have to study in tents, caravans or tin shacks.
Years of conflict and poverty have dealt a harsh blow to education in oPt. In Area “C”, which is under full Israeli control and covers 60% of the West Bank, children have to overcome daily obstacles on their way to school such as crossing check points, passing through the Barrier, facing settler and military harassment and violence, and long distances which are sometimes impossible to overcome. Since building permits are almost impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Area “C”, many schools fall short of basic safety and hygiene standards, while facing demolition and stop-work orders.
‘’Creating an environment that helps children lead as normal a life as possible and focus on their studies is something we must all strive for‘’ said UNICEF-oPt Special Representative Jean Gough in Kaabneh, a Bedouin village in Area “C” near Jericho, where children told her they have to walk long distances in the heat from their makeshift encampments to reach school. Made out of a few containers, without proper sanitation facilities, Kaabneh’s school and several encampments are facing demolition orders.
“Together with the international community, we call on the Israeli Government to ensure that all Palestinian children have safe and unrestricted access to education”, said Lamis Alami, Minister of Education and Higher Education. “We ask the Israeli Authorities to immediately refrain from demolishing schools and issuing demolition orders, and to let classrooms be rehabilitated and expanded, so that children no longer risk psychological distress and school dropout”, she said, adding that “On our part, we commit to investing in our schools in all locations and to ensuring adequate classroom space and a proper environment for children to learn”.
Saeb Erekat, Chief Negotiator and member of the Palestinian Legislative council, explained that "Students in Area "C" suffer from the demolition of their homes and schools, and from settler violence. Their right to education is not respected." He called on the international community to support Palestinian statehood.
UNICEF and partners also visited the nearby Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar, where children have to cross a busy highway on foot to attend classes in a school which is also fighting for survival. Even though it was built out of recycled rubber tires and dried mud, children have no guarantee they will be able to attend classes this year, since neighboring settlers have petitioned Israeli authorities to have the school demolished. The Bedouins of Khan al Ahmar have now exhausted all legal avenues to protect their school and homes from demolition, putting children at risk of school dropout and forced displacement.
“Children’s right to protection and education must be protected at all costs, especially in vulnerable communities where education is key to the future”, said Gough.