Finding a way to school in the State of Palestine
Nearly 25 per cent of boys aged 15 are out of school.
HEBRON, State of Palestine, 26 July 2018 – “If the checkpoint is closed, I will go to another one, I will find a way to get [to school],” says Marwan, 14.
Marwan lives in the West Bank city of Hebron, in a part known as the H2 area where an estimated 40,000 people live.
To reach their classrooms, Marwan and his peers must navigate the security checkpoints that punctuate the H2 area.
On occasions, clashes follow stone throwing, while delays in letting children pass and harassment and abuse can all be part of the journey they make twice a day.
“If the checkpoint is closed, I will go to another one, I will find a way to get [to school].”
Navigating a safe path to school
“When I go to school, I wait for my two friends to come, so we walk in a group. Of course, I think about the situation and that other children don’t have to suffer like me,” he says sat on the roof of his house.
It’s the summer holidays, but he’s reading a school text book to keep up with his studies. The roof offers him some peace that is hard to come by inside or out of his home.
“I can’t study during the day […] so I normally wait until people sleep to have some quiet time to study,” says Marwan. He lives with his parents, five siblings, seven members of his uncle’s family and another family of three.
His dad, Mufid, fully supports his six children’s desire to continue learning, but it comes at a price.
“I’m proud of my children but I worry all the time because of the violations. I don’t know how it will affect their lives.”
To help protect children and to monitor their journey to school, UNICEF and partners provide a protective presence for some 8,000 children across the West Bank. Volunteers are present at checkpoints and accompany children to school in some areas.
“It’s only a presence but people think twice, it helps to reduce the likelihood of clashes or delays,” says Katya*, a 41-year-old volunteer from Switzerland who is spending three months in the area.
Never giving up
Marwan is determined not to let the situation affect his education. “I need to keep going to school, it gives me an opportunity to improve my mind,” he says. “I wish to be a photographer in the future so I need school.”
For some children and their families, it’s can be one challenge too many and leads to them dropping out, particularly adolescent boys who are most at risk of leaving school.
A new UNICEF report, produced in cooperation with the State of Palestine’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education, shows that about one in four boys aged 15 are out of school. The ‘State of Palestine: Country Report on Out of School Children’ highlights how adolescent boys, aged 14 and 15, make up nearly half of all children missing out on education up to the compulsory school age of 15 years.
The low quality of education, often seen as not relevant to young lives; physical and emotional violence in schools, including by teachers and peers; and armed conflict are among the reasons for drop out, according to the report.
Marwan has reached the ‘at-risk age’, but he’s confident with his academic performance. “I face no challenges studying but being on time is the greatest issue because of the situation.”
*Name changed to protect identity
On the blog: Gaza: Learning in the shadow of conflict