Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, August 2009


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




UN and International Agencies Fear Gaza Educational System Unprepared for New School Year

 Statement and Fact Sheet, August 5, 2009

Call for immediate opening of Gaza’s borders
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, representing UN aid agencies in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), represented by at least 25 NGOs, today demand full and unfettered access into and out of Gaza in particular to restore the Gazan educational system.
During the 23 days of Israel’s operation “Cast Lead” in Gaza, 18 schools were completely destroyed and at least 280 were damaged. Today, one month before the start of the new school year, more than six months after the ceasefires, none of these schools have been properly rebuilt or rehabilitated due to lack of construction materials. Since the imposition of the blockade, students have faced chronic shortages of educational supplies including textbooks, paper and uniforms, though we acknowledge the recent moves to allow textbooks, uniforms, and stationary into Gaza. These are welcome first steps.  However, the quantities, kinds and predictability of goods being permitted into Gaza are still far below what is required for normal life.  Even prior to “Cast Lead” the education system was already under severe duress due to the two year blockade that has caused a crisis of “human dignity” in Gaza. 
The right to learn and be educated is a fundamental child right that is uniquely central to every child’s ability to realize his or her potential - and by extension, that of their communities and countries. In the context of protracted conflict and occupation, safe schools also offer an unparalleled means of restoring a sense of normalcy and hope for children and their families. Despite the extraordinary odds stacked against them, going to school and becoming educated remains the single most cherished priority among Palestinian children. The continuing blockade on Gaza jeopardizes this fundamental child right, along with the remarkable progress in education that has been achieved thus far.
“The blockade has caused untold suffering to children in Gaza, who face another academic year in terrible conditions”, said Philippe Lazzarini, acting Humanitarian Coordinator of oPt.
Together with the communities we serve, the United Nations and non-governmental humanitarian organizations working in oPt collectively call for immediate steps to end the blockade, as is required by international humanitarian and human rights law. We call on the Government of Israel to urgently facilitate entry of construction materials and supplies for schools in the coming weeks, and to ensure that students, teachers and trainers can freely exit and enter Gaza to continue learning.
Ensuring access to education is an obligation of all governments, its primacy proclaimed by agreements ranging from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Education is also the heart of all development and the essential prerequisite for equality, dignity, and lasting peace. The future belongs to this generation of children and adolescents, and that future is inextricably rooted in the quality of education that they receive today.
For further information, please contact:

Ms. Marixie Mercado, Chief Communications, UNICEF-occupied Palestinian territory.  Mobile: +972-0-54 778 7604, e-mail:

Mr. Chris Gunness, Spokesperson, UNRWA.  Telephone: +972-2-5890267, Mobile:+972-054-240-2659, e-mail:

Ms. Allegra Pacheco, Head of Advocacy Unit, OCHA.  Mobile: +-972-054 3311 806, e-mail:
Mr. Jerry  Farrell, Country Director, Save the Children Alliance, mobile:+-972-0-54 313 4280, e- mail:

Mr. Osama Damo, Documentation and Communication Officer, Save the Children Alliance,  mobile: +972-0-598-705-883, e-mail:


THE NUMBERS: More than half the population of Gaza – 780,578,  or 53% – is under the age of 18[1].
ACCESS TO EDUCATION: There are 640 schools in Gaza – 383 government schools, 221 UNRWA schools and 36 private schools, which together serve a total of 441,452 students[2].
The inability of university and post-graduate level students to travel to pursue academic studies in specialized fields is stifling the intellectual advancement of young adults in Gaza. Between July and September 2008, only 70 students managed to exit Gaza via Erez while hundreds more remained trapped owing to a newly instated diplomatic escort requirement mandated by Israeli authorities.
More than 1,000 Gazan students apply to universities around the world each year but as there is no official body or channel to coordinate their requests or exits, it is difficult to know how many students want to study abroad this coming year.[3]
OVERCROWDING: Around 88% of UNRWA schools and 82% of government schools operate on a shift system to accommodate the high number of students. Blockade restrictions have made it difficult to invest in building new schools or repair damaged schools.
In north Gaza, 9,000 students from 15 damaged schools were accommodated in 73 schools in the same area.  4,000 of them were squeezed in two schools.  Some 1,200 secondary students in governmental schools in north Gaza run the risk of not being accommodated in the 2009/2010 school year[4].
DECLINING ACHIEVEMENT:  In governmental schools, school attendance and performance have declined as a result of ageing education infrastructure, overcrowding, and frequent disruptions caused by military operations.[5] In the first semester of the 2007-2008 school year, only 20% of 16,000 sixth graders in Gaza passed standardized exams in Math, Science, English and Arabic.[6]
Infrastructure: Operation Cast Lead had devastating consequences for the education system already weakened as a result of the blockade. During the military offensive, at least 280 schools and kindergartens were damaged/ severely damaged, including 18 schools were destroyed (8 government, 2 private and 8 Kindergartens).  Six of the destroyed government schools are in North Gaza alone, affecting almost 9,000 students who had to relocate to other schools.[7]
Six university buildings were destroyed, and 16 were damaged.
Teachers and Students: According to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), 164 students and 12 teachers from its schools were killed during the Israeli military offensive; 98 of the students killed were from north Gaza.   A further 454 students and 5 teachers were injured. A total of 86 children and 3 teachers who attend UNRWA schools were killed, and a further 402 students and 14 teachers were injured. Schoolchildren, thousands of whom lost family members and/or their homes, are still suffering from trauma and anxiety and are in need of psycho-social support and recreational play activities. 
Displacement: At the peak of the offensive, almost 51,000 individuals, among them approximately 28,560 children, had sought refuge in 44 UNRWA schools across Gaza[8], causing considerable wear and tear on classrooms, sanitation facilities and furniture.
MATERIALS TO RECONSTRUCT: According to Ministry of Education and Higher Education, it needs to build 105 new schools to cater for yearly increase in student  population.  Construction materials needed includes items such as 25,000 tons of iron bars, 40,000 tons of cement.
BRAIN FOOD: Around one-fifth of school children are iodine deficient.[9] The prevalence of anaemia among children 9 - 12 months old of age is 61.6%; and prevalence among pregnant women is around 29%,[10] and 22% of children 12 - 59 months old lack Vitamin A.[11]

[1] Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, 2009.  Total population in Gaza is 1,486,816.
[2] UNRWA and Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE)
[3] Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, “Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit from Gaza,” July 2009.
[4] Ministry of Education and Higher Education, 2009
[5] Save the Children UK, 2008 Child Rights Annual Review.
[6] MoEHE
[8] OCHA
[9] Nutrition Department / MoH / PNA, 2007
[10] Nutrition Department / MoH / PNA; Nutrition Surveillance System Report, 2007
[11] MoH / PNA and MARAM Project, 2004




Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent