Let Gaza’s children laugh again

Hope must be restored to Gaza’s children. 

Naaman Omar APA images

Areej is a 14-year-old girl, who should be taking lessons at school. Instead, she is navigating the corridors of a UN school that has been turned into a shelter.

The classrooms once echoed with the hum of learning. Now, they bear witness to the struggles of displaced families, trying to survive.

It is a cruel twist of fate: a child meant to be protected within the walls of knowledge is now seeking refuge within the very walls that were to shape her future.

Children are caught in a web of destruction that spares neither school nor sanctuary.

Thousands of children have been killed by Israel during its genocidal war against Gaza.

Gaza’s classrooms were once filled by 625,000 schoolchildren. The laughter of these children has been silenced and replaced by the deafening roar of airstrikes.

Israeli violence denies Gaza’s children the basic right to education.

Nedaa Zaki, an English-language teacher, mourns not only the loss of classrooms but the irreparable damage to dreams. “Before, their greatest wish was to get a perfect score in their tests. Now, they think about how to survive death and displacement.”

Long shadow

The disruption of education will have consequences for decades. Even if the war were to end tomorrow, trauma and the gaping holes in the education infrastructure would cast a long, daunting shadow over Gaza’s children.

The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated. The level of violence has rendered any form of education impossible, plunging an entire generation into the depths of uncertainty and despair.

Schools are being targeted directly by Israel.

More than 270 public school buildings in Gaza and almost 100 school buildings run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) have sustained damage.

More than 200 educational staff have been killed. Hundreds more have been injured.

The loss is not just numerical.

Every teacher who has been killed had a family. Every teacher who has been killed had a story.

The assassination of Refaat Alareer, a university teacher and poet, created a void not just in the classroom but in the hearts of students and colleagues mourning his death.

The same can be said for all the primary and high school teachers who have been killed. Students have been robbed of gifted educators.

The logistical challenges ahead are daunting. The process of rebuilding education in Gaza will require a long-lasting ceasefire.

As we contemplate the devastating toll war has taken on education in Gaza, let us not forget that within these ruins lies the resilience of a generation that refuses to be defined by the darkness that surrounds them.

The call to action is clear – rebuild Gaza’s schools, restore the hope that once echoed through their classrooms and ensure that no child is deprived of their right to education.

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