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All the children in Gaza are out of school

Occupied Palestinian Territories

All the schools in Gaza are closed because of the violence, so what is happening to the children who are now out of school?

Recreational activities organized for children

Recreational activities organized for children | © HI

Since 7 October and the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, some 33,000 Palestinians have been killed and 75,000 injured in the constant bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces. This deadly offensive comes in the wake of a massive attack launched on Israel by Hamas, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 Israelis and foreign nationals taken hostage.

What are the consequences of months of violence on children's education? Gaza Inclusive Education Manager, Mahmoud Abudraz, answers our questions:

This war is different

In Gaza, children under the age of 16 have spent their entire lives under tight siege and amid recurrent escalations of violence and wars. In fact, they have already experienced five such tragedies in their lifetimes, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which have dramatically affected their education. So far, however, community-based initiatives, such as catch-up classes and remedial education, have always helped to fill gaps and support the learning process. But not this time – because this war is entirely different in terms of its length, intensity, the number of schools damaged, and the number of children and teachers killed.

According to OCHA, as of April 23, 625,000 students were without access to education in Gaza and, tragically, more than 6,417 students and 296 educational staff had been killed. Moreover, 73% of school buildings had been directly hit or damaged, and 60% (320 out of 563) of the school buildings are being used as IDP shelters, of which 65% were directly hit or damaged.

1 million children in need of mental health care

An estimated 1 million children in Gaza are in need of mental health and psychological support. Some 17,000 children are currently unaccompanied or separated, exposing them to heightened risks of violence and abuse.

The instability and insecurity affect entire families, weighing particularly heavily on parents who are already struggling to provide food and other necessities. For the children, losing their homes, schools and friends has deprived them of fundamental pillars of stability and security, leaving them close to psychological collapse.

Safe spaces for children

HI is establishing spaces where children can gather with trusted adults and friends to engage in play-based learning activities and receive psychological support with referrals to specialized Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and Child Protection services. But no spaces can be considered safe in Gaza today.

This absence of safe spaces hinders the provision of comprehensive support. Indeed, without an immediate ceasefire, children will be unable to get back to learning. Their right to education will continue to be violated and they will remain at risk of lasting damage to their mental health.

Immediate and sustainable ceasefire

Without an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, children will continue to live with stress and fear. Those who survive will face further severe and long-lasting learning challenges and psychological distress, and their capacity to recover will be greatly diminished.

HI and Inclusive Education in Palestine

HI’s program in Palestine promotes the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. Among other initiatives, our teams target communities to identify girls and boys with disabilities who are out of school or at risk of dropping out. They refer these children to specialized service providers in the sectors of health, protection, shelter, and livelihoods, based on their individual needs, to support their inclusion. The program also equips targeted schools with learning and teaching materials and provides hearing, visual, and educational technologies for boys and girls with disabilities. HI's overarching goal is to enable nearly 3,000 children with disabilities to access education.

Date published: 05/07/24


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