21 February 2024

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Education becomes latest casualty of war for Palestinians

Education becomes latest casualty of war for Palestinians

Education becomes latest casualty of war for Palestinians

GAZA: (Suno Web) On the International Day of Education, education in Palestine has become the last casualty of the Israel-Gaza war as the besieged enclave suffers demolished classrooms and schools, displaced teachers and hundreds of thousands of children without access to learning, Al Arabiya News reported.

Over 100 days of intense Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip have demolished schools and classrooms, displaced or killed teachers, and shuttered access to learning for the hundreds of thousands of children coping with daily horrors as education becomes the latest casualty of the Middle Eastern war.

On the International Day of Education – marked annually on January 24 – regional and international aid agencies warn of the long-term devastation for the youth of Palestine – hundreds of thousands of whom face a critical gap in education and no access to the safe haven of schools – adding to the legacy of the trauma of the war.

Before the war, the population of the Gaza Strip stood at 2.2 million – more than half of those were school-age children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry’s latest statistics.

Almost four months after the Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people, Israel’s offensive has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children.

But for the children that remain, aid agencies warn many are finding it difficult to differentiate between life and death as hope slips further away. Adding to the forced displacement of Palestinian youth and their lack of access to basic necessities, they are enduring violence, loss of family and friends, bodily injuries and amputations, all while battling trauma from the crisis.

As of January 8, 2024, the war has impacted over 433,000 students and 16,000 teachers, according to data shared by UNICEF with Al Arabiya English.

Of these, 4,275 students aged between six and 17 have been killed, alongside 227 teachers. At least 90 percent of school buildings are being used by internally displaced Palestinians at four times their capacity, according to the UNICEF estimate.

Educational institutions, which have historically provided a safe space with familiar surroundings and peers, have become the latest disruptive element in the lives of thousands of young people in the Middle Eastern enclave.

Around 270 schools that were previously operational in the Gaza Strip are either partially or fully damaged, Hani Shehada, the head of the Palestinian office of the Education Above All (EAA) foundation told Al Arabiya English.

Some of the schools that are still standing are being used as shelters against Israeli bombing, he said speaking from Paris, adding that no education was happening in these structures.

Palestinians take shelter in a UN-run school from the ongoing Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Nuiserat refugee camp on Saturday, October 14, 2023. (File photo: AP)

Palestinians take shelter in a UN-run school from the ongoing Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Nuiserat refugee camp on Saturday, October 14, 2023. (File photo: AP)

The Qatari foundation was founded by the former first lady of the Gulf state, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, in 2012. Since then, it has been tasked with providing education-based assistance to marginalized communities in nearly 60 countries.

Following the outbreak of the war in Gaza, EAA launched a program to provide mental health support, hot meals, and essential hygiene products alongside international partners, including UNICEF and UNFPA.

“The children and youth are suffering from trauma that I’m unsure happened in history,” Shehada said.

Acknowledging that wars in the past have had long-term impacts on children and their development, Shehada added that “the level of destruction, the level of targeting, the level of immunity that the Israelis are having – with the killing of civilians, of children, of women; there is no protected or safe area.”

“The drones are 24 hours over you and, in any minute, you can die,” he said.

The deadly war was the result of an escalation in tensions between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, whose attack left over 1,000 dead and over 200 captive in Gaza.

Some of the hostages have been released following various mediation attempts. Israel is currently bombing Gaza under the pretext of eliminating Hamas – a US-designated terrorist group – and rescuing the remaining hostages currently held in Gaza.

Since Shehada heads the Palestinian office, he is stationed between Gaza and Doha for a major part of his job. But shortly before the outbreak of the war, Shehada was abroad – escaping what could have been a deadly affair.

“People are losing their sons, their daughters, their fathers, their mothers, their limbs,” he said, expounding on how the long-lasting trauma that war can leave on children.

Some of the activities commissioned by EAA and its partners are meant to “give them a breath” and temporarily allow downtime for those impacted by the daily horrors of war.

“When they play, when they sing, when they do something, they may forget about everything around them for a short time. And this could uplift them for a short period,” he said, clarifying that long-term “specialized interventions” will have to be provided when mobilization of resources is possible.

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