Knowledge is going up in smoke

Children are being denied the right to education. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

A grim reality is unfolding amid the Gaza genocide.

Facing an acute shortage of firewood and other fuel, people have resorted to burning things that are precious to them. They include papers that people have written themselves.

Knowledge is literally going up in smoke.

A woman named Raba had to burn the thesis with which she earned a master’s degree.

That was the only way she could cook pasta for her children.

It was a “choice” – if that is the right word – forced by circumstances beyond her control.

Her thesis – once a testament to academic excellence – eventually served as kindling for her family’s survival.

Her story is far from unique.

I know another family who take education extremely seriously. They had produced many scholarly texts.

The family had to burn their work during this war.

The Bahrain Public Library in Rafah, southern Gaza, used to be a cultural sanctuary. It stocked thousands of books in Arabic and English, as well as a cinema and a computer lab.

Eyewitnesses have reported seeing people raiding its shelves so that they could use its books for fuel. Its literary treasures have been reduced to ashes.

Despite the desperation, many people have done what they can to ensure that children and young people can keep learning.

With all of Gaza’s universities and most schools destroyed or damaged, formal education has halted. Yet classes have been organized in the tents where Gaza’s displaced people are taking shelter.

Israel’s invasion of Rafah – where most of Gaza’s displaced had moved – inevitably makes arranging such classes harder as there is an exodus from the city.

It does not mean that classes will stop. There are many teachers among the displaced and we can be certain that they will use their skills to help children no matter how dreadful the situation becomes.

Even if Gaza’s people have to burn books, they are determined to rise from the flames of oppression.

Eman Alhaj Ali is a journalist, translator and writer based in Gaza.