Some 1.4 million Palestinian children from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip have just back to school. The minors are eager to learn and thrivebut they face challenges that many children around the world cannot even imagine.
In the first half of 2022, the United Nations has recorded 115 rights violations by Israel in schools within the occupied Palestinian territory.
the recent August escalation of violence in Gaza claimed the lives of 17 childrenthat they will no longer be able to go back to school. Eight of them were students at schools run by the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, students often face tear gas, flash grenades, rubber bulletsintimidation of the Israeli military and settlers and movement restrictions that prevent them from reaching their classes. Nearly 8,000 students in the West Bank have been affected by Israeli violence, which increases the risk of dropping out of school, according to Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“The israeli army raidsWithout a doubt, they affect children a lot. We got up, got ready to go to school and heard army shots. All of this causes a lot of stress for families and students. Students are sometimes late and other times are absent repeatedly. I understand very well a mother who sends her daughter late to school or who He doesn’t dare send her to school. Some days the army comes in at 7am and leaves at 9am,” says Ghadir Nasharti, a counselor at one of the UNRWA schools in the Jenin Palestine refugee camp in the West Bank.
According to the latest data from OCHA, the violence has taken the lives of 37 boys and girls in Gaza and the West Bankincluding East Jerusalem, so far this year. And 682 have been injured.
“When I go to work I often hear mothers tell their daughters ‘there is no danger, you have to go to school’. Or they point to me indicating that I am the counselor and I take them by the hand and accompany them. Lately, the teachers and the principal have been at the door to welcome the students,” says Ghadir with concern.
The Jenin camp was established in 1953 and is one of the most tense areas, where recently the Palestinian journalist SHiren Abu Akleh she was assassinated by the Israeli army while covering one of their operations. Some 30,000 people per square kilometer live there and four UNRWA schools serve around 2,000 students.
“Life for the inhabitants of the camp is really worrying. We live with fear and tension. We have become accustomed to sleeping and waking up every day with Israeli military incursions.”
Protection issues remain a major concern for residents who endure almost daily incursions into the camp, often resulting in clashes and violence. This situation has a significant impact on the emotional and psychosocial well-being of young children, especially.
In addition, Jenin has one of the higher rates of unemployment and poverty of the 19 Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank. This particularly affects young people, resulting in widespread dissatisfaction and frustration which, together with the violence they live with, leads to higher rates of school dropout among the little ones.
“We deserve to live and our children deserve a pleasant life, to live in peace and to play safely. They deserve to have safe spaces. We are a peaceful, patient and oppressed people”sentence Ghadir.
UNRWA has launched a signature petition for a return to school without violence for Palestine refugee children.