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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
31 January 2015

Rapid Assessment of Higher Education Institutions in Gaza

Data Analysis Report


The scale of destruction and devastation after 50 days of conflict in July-August 2014 is unprecedented in Gaza, including in the education sector. According to the MIRA1 findings, 26 schools have been completely destroyed and 122 damaged during the conflict, 75 of which are UNRWA schools. It is worth noting that already prior to the last conflict the education system in Gaza was suffering from a shortage of at least 200 schools, which led to a big number of classes running in double shifts, impacting on the quality of education. Early childhood development has also been highly affected.

Among a total of 407 kindergartens in Gaza, 133 were damaged and 11 totally destroyed2 The Higher Education sector also suffered severe human and infrastructure damages. After 50 days of conflict, the right to quality education for all Palestinian children and youth has been further compromised.

This assessment has been conducted in close coordination with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) and initially in the framework of the Humanitarian Education Cluster. The overall objective was to support the MoEHE and Higher Education Institutions in the identification of critical needs and in the development of a response plan for the higher education sector. The results could also be used to inform future contingency plans (for instance through crisis-Disaster Risk Reduction programmes) to protect education from attacks and mitigate the impact of crisis. Through this report, we would also like to advocate for the higher education sector, outlining concrete and critical recommendations, not only to ensure the right to education but to also contribute to the development of Gaza through the involvement of and the support to youth. Another area of focus of the assessment is closely related to UNESCO’s support to inclusive education systems, with preliminary findings on the situation of students suffering from impairment or disability as a result of the conflict.

This assessment will also fit into the Detailed Needs Assessment (DNA) for Palestine coordinated among the UN, the EU, the World Bank and the PA, and for which the UN is the responsible entity for the social sector, including education.

UNESCO would like to thank all the colleagues and partners who participated in and supported the preparation of this assessment. In particular, our thanks goes to MoEHE, the focal points at the HEIs in Gaza, the Education Cluster, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Education team of the UNESCO Ramallah Office that conducted the field work, as well EENET who compiled and analysed the results of this assessment. Our deepest gratitude and thoughts are going to the people of Gaza and to all the colleagues, students, teachers and education personnel that, in a very difficult moment in their lives, took the time to collect and share information, and accepted to tell us their stories.

Lodovico Folin-Calabi, Head of the UNESCO Ramallah Office, a.i.

1. Introduction

This report assesses the material, human and educational damage sustained by 26 higher education institutions (HEIs) in Gaza during 50 days of conflict between 7th July and 26th August 2014. The severe escalation in hostilities at that time involved intense Israeli aerial and naval bombardment and Palestinian rocket fire. The crisis was unprecedented, causing large-scale destruction and displacement.

As of 15th October 2014, a total of 2,205 Palestinians (1,483 civilians) and 71 Israelis (4 civilians) were killed and an estimated 14,000 housing units were destroyed. Around 500,000 Palestinians were displaced at the height of the conflict (with over 100,000 still displaced) and 108,000 remain homeless.3

In addition to kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and other education centres,4 higher education institutions were directly targeted during the hostilities, sustaining significant injury and loss of life among staff and student populations, as well as damage to buildings and equipment.

1.1. Study methodology

This report has been compiled using primary data collected by UNESCO from HEIs in Gaza. A total of 26 rapid assessment questionnaires were administered, along with interviews with 38 staff members (36 male, 2 female), focus group discussions with 12 staff members (11 male, 1 female), and three semi structured interviews with the Assistant Deputy Minister for Higher Education and university leaders.

Orientation sessions were provided by the UNESCO assessment team to 26 HEIs on the process and methodology of the assessment, including presentation of the data questionnaire. The data collection phase subsequently began with field visits to all 26 HEIs by 2 data collectors (Assessment Co-ordinator and Social Worker). Each data collector visited 13 HEIs, completing questionnaires using Excel data sheets.

Qualitative data was also collected through interviews and case studies. Rapid assessments and data from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and UNESCO have also been incorporated where relevant.

1.2. Summary of key findings

There was a failure to protect education from attack during the 50 day crisis.

Staff and students suffered heavy casualties during the conflict, sustaining loss of life and serious injuries. A number of injuries have led to disabilities including mobility, hearing and visual impairments which will impact on individuals and their families throughout their lives.

Nine academic and administrative staff from the HEIs were killed and 21 injured.

A total of 421 HEI students were killed during the conflict and 1,128 were injured.

Student deaths during the conflict constitute more than a quarter – or 27.4% - of total civilian deaths incurred in Palestine.5 Even considering the exceptionally high ratio of people aged 15 to 29 to the total over-15 population (53%),6 this is a shocking statistic.

Education and business-related subject specialisms were particularly hard hit by student death and injury.

Fourteen HEIs were damaged during hostilities, some directly targeted, others suffering collateral damage. Many of these institutions are experiencing severe disruption to academic and administrative operations as a result.

The total estimated cost of repairs to and replacement of HEI buildings, facilities and equipment is US$ 16,088,597.7

Damage to infrastructure as well as equipment, facilities and learning materials inevitably reduce access to education and have potentially long-term impacts on the quality of teaching and learning.

The majority of HEIs are not currently implementing inclusive approaches in building design or appropriate pedagogical or practical support to students with disabilities.

Emergency planning in HEIs is weak and there is currently no co-ordination between HEIs.

Psychosocial support for staff and students is inadequate.

A total of 393 staff lost their homes in the crisis. Students from 23 out of 26 HEIs had their homes destroyed, putting further pressure on already severe housing shortages in Gaza. A total of 7,169 students – or 7.5% of the student population at all HEIs – were affected.

HEIs were disrupted for a minimum of 20 days over the semester, and a maximum of 62 days. In total, 1,016 individual HEI days were lost over the summer semester, indicating the extent of the interruption to academic study caused by the crisis.

Staff identified the following priorities: buildings, financing for student fees/grants, emergency response and protection, improvements to quality of teaching and learning, enhanced psychosocial support.

1Multi-Cluster/Agency Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) coordinated by OCHA.
2Assessment concluded by Save the Children in coordination with the Humanitarian Education Cluster and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
3Source: UNOCHA Accessed 18th November 2014.
4Initial estimates by UNDP put total material damage across the whole education sector at USD$16,397,254. This breaks down as follows: kindergartens $633,600; schools $7,384,478; education centres $1,016,703; higher education institutes $7,362,473. Data supplied by UNDP 16th November
5Calculation based on UNOCHA figures (1483 civilian deaths) as at 14th October 2014. Source: UNOCHA Accessed 18th November 2014.
6UNOCHA ONS statistics quoted in Accessed 20th November 2014.
7This estimate is for HEIs only and is based upon UNDP figures for infrastructure repair and reconstruction combined with data collected by UNESCO for this assessment which calculated the costs of damaged equipment and facilities (see Section 4 for details).

Complete document in PDF format (Requires Acrobat Reader)

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