Right to education robbed from Gaza’s children

One of many schools that Israel has destroyed during its genocidal war on Gaza. 

Naaman Omar APA images

Ola Nasser has been devastated by the genocidal war on Gaza.

Her husband and her son were killed when Israel attacked their neighbors’ home in the southern city of Khan Younis.

She recalls that a “very heavy and large missile” fell on their house during the attack.

Nasser was upstairs with her daughter, while her husband and son were downstairs.

“Suddenly, I found myself on the street,” she said. “I was on a pile of rubble.”

When she was brought to hospital, Nasser learned that her husband and son had been killed.

“My heart still aches for the loss of everything,” she said. “My husband, my child and the school where I worked.”

Nasser is a science teacher.

Before the war, she was working in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

“The area where my school was located is completely destroyed,” she said.

Like so many others, she had hoped that Israel would spare schools, which have become shelters for displaced people.

“Schools and hospitals are supposed to be safe places in war,” she said. “They are supposed to be safe from its negative effects.”

“We need to protect schools”

Almost 400 schools in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed during the current war. These schools previously served approximately 460,000 children and 17,000 teachers.

According to United Nations’ estimates, at least 55 percent of schools will require either major repairs or complete reconstruction.

Samia Salem taught mathematics in the Tel al-Hawa area of Gaza City before the war.

She laments how Israeli troops laid siege to the area. Schools and other civilian infrastructure were shelled.

“There will be no schooling for children this year,” she said. “Then we will need a long period to restore everything. That means students could lose another year and this will greatly affect their motivation and the level of their education.”

Salem fled Gaza City for Rafah in the south two months ago. With classes unable to function as normal, she had observed how children and parents are still trying to learn in a more informal setting.

Many children are reading and learning math in tents.

Education has been repeatedly disrupted in Gaza over recent years – both because of Israel’s attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to protect schools,” Salem said. “They must not be exposed to bombing and destruction.”

Every aspect of education has been affected. Kindergartens have even been attacked by Israel.

“Israel does not consider that Palestinians have a right to education,” said Sadiq al-Khadour, a spokesperson for the education ministry in Gaza. “Israel has destroyed our schools and disrupted the process of scientific and intellectual development.”

Doha al-Daba is a 12-year-old girl from al-Zaytoun, east of Gaza City. Her family had to evacuate their home and head for Khan Younis.

“The occupation destroyed my school,” she said. “Why is Israel attacking education?”

Doha does not know how many children from her school have been killed in this war.

“I miss books and school activities,” she said. “I used to spend a long time in school. Now we spend all our time in a tent. I want my old routine back.”

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.