In a month starring the joy of boys and girls, and especially fathers and mothers, with the return to the classroom; reaching schools on the other side of the world is a challenge. The uncertainty and fear these days invade the thoughts of thousands of students from Palestine.
The tranquility of arriving at school, even in circumstances of a “new normal” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a feeling that students in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, do not enjoy. The students face the attacks, military checkpoints, harassment and the launching of tear gas daily by Israeli forces and settlers.
“I have agreed with two classmates to cross the checkpoints together to avoid harassment, but sometimes tear gas is fired at us when we arrived. Sometimes the army even closes the checkpoint so we can’t go to school. Have education rightsWe cannot allow them to take it away from us, ”says Waed, a 14-year-old from the old city of Hebron, West Bank. He walks the short distance between his home and the school he attends every day in the so-called H2 zone, which comprises 20% of the city, is under Israeli control and isolated from the rest of the city.
Fatima Katash is 13 years old and the oldest of three sisters. He is an 8th grade student at the United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA) school in Jazalone. Almost daily, Fatima and her companions find problems on the way to school. “The school is too close to the Israeli settlement of Beit El, which makes dangerous the way up there ”. In 2020, Israeli forces carried out at least 46 operations in the camp.
They often use tear gas, metal bullets covered in plastic and live ammunition during settlement expansion operations. “I don’t feel safe going to school. If there are incidents near the settlement, I need to run a long distance to get to a safe place, ”says Fátima.
It should be noted that, in the long term, tear gas generates medical pathologies and has a devastating effect on mental and physical health of refugees, especially in vulnerable groups such as minors.
The UNRWA Protection and Neutrality team works to provide a safe environment for students. “Our oversight and presence allows us to better understand the enormous challenges they face. We become part of the school: what they feel, we feel with them. We are trained to document incidents and this improves our interaction with the Israeli authorities to try to prevent these events from happening again, ”says Heidi, a member of the Protection and Neutrality Team in Hebron.
– Attacks on childhood and education are increasing-
Since early 2021, it has been reported death of a total of 80 Palestinian children and 1,269 have been injured. 68 were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during the recent escalation of bombing in May, as well as by explosive remnants of warfare. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, 12 minors were killed and 584 injured.
The excessive use of force and violence against the little ones it must cease immediately. Minors not only have the right to a safe education, but it must also be provided special protection under international law of human rights, being a vulnerable group.
The protection of education also involves the inviolability of their schools, something that, according to the latest figures, is not being fulfilled. During the offensive in Gaza 89 UNRWA schools were damaged. Unfortunately, two of them remain closed and 4,000 children are displaced from their usual classrooms and have been relocated to other educational centers while the damage is repaired and the schools are investigated.
The armed conflict in SyriaTen years after its inception, it also remains latent and remnants of war explosives remain in the streets, threatening the physical and psychological integrity of those who live there, including minors. Recently seven Palestine refugee children were hospitalized in the blast of said remains while playing in the street. In addition, according to the latest report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, after the recent attacks in Dera’a, in southern Syria, there is a danger of explosives that threaten infrastructure such as schools.
The schools and education of Palestine refugee students are inviolable. For this reason, the United Nations Agency for Refugees and Refugees in Palestine has launched a collection of signatures for a #vueltalcolesegura.