Back to School
Gaza, August 2008
"Last year half of the teachers in my school arrived late in the morning because there was no transportation (due to fuel shortages). But there were teachers who walked long distances in Gaza City to come to school and we appreciate their efforts.
If the blockade continues on Gaza, I will not be able to go to school and continue my education. There will be no text books and stationary, and teachers won’t be able to come to school without transportation …. My father is not working and my family can barely afford food for us so it is difficult for them to pay for school needs and expenses. My brother Mohammed couldn’t go to university and my sister Haya will not go to school to study tawjihi (grade 12) this year because there is no money to pay for the expenses and buy her new jelbab (secondary school uniform).
My goal in life is to continue in my education and not to stop for any reason. I don’t want to step back. I will continue my education because I am a clever student and I am one of the top 10 students in my class."
These are the words of 13-year-old Nour Zuhair Ziyara from Gaza. She is one of almost 1.1 million students who will stream back to classrooms across Gaza and the West Bank this week, against extraordinary odds.
In the West Bank, most students will have to cross one of more than 600 physical obstacles to movement ranging from earth mounds to armed checkpoints. In Gaza, where hundreds of the territory’s brightest students are barred from leaving to further their studies, a 14-month-long Israeli blockade has left schools scrambling for stationary, clean water and electricity.
At least 82 children including 21 UNRWA students won’t be going back to school. They were killed this year, victims of the violence that frames daily life here for most children: 76 were killed in the conflict with Israel and 6 in intra-Palestinian violence. The vast majority of the 300-odd children in Israeli detention centers will get almost no schooling.
Eighty-five per cent of UNRWA schools in Gaza, and around a fifth of government schools across the West Bank run double shifts to accommodate the numbers of students, meaning shorter school days and less learning time for students. In the meantime, over USD 90 million in UN-supported building projects including schools remain suspended for lack of building materials in Gaza.
With the economy on the verge of collapse, many parents cannot afford school. UNRWA and UNICEF, along with our UN partners, are firmly committed to education – as a fundamental child right, as a development imperative, and here in oPt, as an emergency intervention critical to sustaining, nurturing and protecting children.
The children, teachers and parents who overcome extreme hardship in order to get to school everyday are the inspiration for our work. As part of the UN family serving Palestinian children, we call upon all those who are touched by the tragedy of lost childhood in oPt. Futures are at stake. Help us to honor our commitment to them.
UNICEF / UNRWA