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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
30 September 2010

Fragmented Foundations: Education and Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Executive Summary
Between December 27th, 2008 and January 18th, 2009, the Israeli army waged a major military operation in the Gaza Strip, bombarding the territory from the air, ground and sea, and conducting a large scale ground incursion. "Operation Cast Lead" resulted in significant loss of life and damage to infrastructure. Moreover, military operations continue on a regular basis, notably in the areas near the border with Israel (the so-called buffer zone), resulting in death, injury and displacement. These operations occur against the backdrop of a severe, long-term blockade. While movement and access restrictions have long been a way of life in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), in 2006 restrictions imposed on Gaza escalated until just a short list of imports were permitted from 2007 to this day (with some modifications to the list in June 2010 following the international reaction to the army action on the Gaza flotilla). As has been well documented by the United Nations, the blockade negatively affects almost every aspect of life for the people of Gaza. It has also prevented the physical reconstruction and recovery of the Gaza Strip.

Although much has been made of the physical damage that remains unaddressed, equally important are the less tangible impacts of the prevailing humanitarian situation. In the aftermath of the war, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 25,000 to 50,000 people – including some 14,000 to 28,000 children – were in need of some form of psychological intervention to address the longer-term psychological effects that had resulted from the hostilities. WHO noted that:

The loss of care and protection of parents or primary caregivers, disruptions to daily life including school and play activities, and loss of adequate nutrition [meant] that children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to psychosocial distress.

A key sector to consider in this regard is education. Education is not only a basic human right, one that cannot be postponed or neglected during conflict or emergency, but also has a key role to play in protecting and sustaining the lives of children and young people. This is particularly true in the occupied Palestinian territory where generations have grown up living under military occupation, conflict and political instability. In the context of their ongoing statelessness, historic displacement and continued threat of forced displacement, education has a key role to play in equipping children and youth with the tools to succeed and to make positive contributions to a future Palestinian state. While data on the physical impacts of the military operations on the education system exist, less is known about the psychosocial impacts, and in particular how the psychosocial situation has affected access to and quality of the education sector, a sector vital to the recovery and rehabilitation of Gaza.

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