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5 October 2010

Shortage of schools puts severe strain on Gaza education


Teachers in the developing world play a vital role in ensuring that children get a good education. Their contribution is being acknowledged today on World Teachers' Day. In Gaza city, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, teachers working for the United Nations Relief Agency, UNRWA are struggling with overcrowded classrooms to educate their students. Jocelyne Sambira has more.

Duration: 2:38


Noon in Gaza city.

Crowds of children walk down an alley in the Daraj neighbourhood in Gaza city. They're going to UNRWA's Elementary School.


It is the end of the morning shift and 1600 children are leaving the school to make room for 1600 more who will attend the afternoon shift.

The only problem is the school was built for 900 students.


Some classes hold up to 50 students and they have to sit four in a desk built for two.

Salem Al-Rifi is a first grader at the UNRWA school.


Every time his neighbour opens a notebook, he complains, he takes up all the space.

Rihab Abu-Foul, the teacher, has to make her way through the cram of students, picking up a young pupil in the aisle to get to the back of the room.


The overcrowding is making it difficult to do her job.

"I can't work with each child to teach them how to write. They are young students who need to be taught the basic skills of writing. The time allowed for me to spend with each student is very limited because there so many students in the classroom. There is not time enough for me to pay attention to every student."

In some areas overcrowding is so acute that UNRWA runs an entire school constructed of shipping containers.

The classrooms get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter but despite this, the achievement level in this school is one of the highest in the area as the classes are of normal size.

Talab Abu-Tahoun is the parent of a 14 year old daughter.

"I went to an UNRWA school and I wish that my children would be able to go to an UNRWA school as well but I had to send my children to the neighbourhood schools and they are also overcrowded."


Gazan families traditionally keep education in high regard, which means that teachers have done a remarkable job, according to John Ging, Director of the UNRWA operations in Gaza.

"The phenomenal work of staff over the last number of years in the most incredibly challenging circumstances has resulted in an improvement in academic standards in our schools, measurable and significant. Now, that is very fragile because every year matters. What we now of course face is another challenge on top of all other challenges we have resulting from the overcrowding and the under funding which of course now jeopardizes not just the gains that have been made but can seriously and quickly undermine and put is back on a downward spiral ."

Jocelyne Sambira at the United Nations.

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