Tents turned into classrooms

Tents are serving as schools in Rafah. 

Ahmed Ibrahim APA images

Most schools have been destroyed or damaged during Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza. All universities have been attacked.

Thousands of students and hundreds of teachers have been killed. Formal education has been halted for the simple reason that holding classes is too dangerous.

Under these horrific circumstances, some people are organizing lessons in the tents where displaced families are now living.

Sawsan al-Saadi had to leave her home in Gaza City during the earlier stages of the war. She is now in the southern city of Rafah.

Her children had just been attending class for a few weeks of a new school year when Israel declared its war on 7 October.

When they were forced to evacuate Gaza City, her children insisted on taking textbooks with them.

In Rafah, Sawsan heard that basic reading lessons were being organized for children in tents next to the one where her family is staying. Her 5-year-old daughter Salma began attending those lessons.

“She comes back from them happy,” Sawsan said.

There are a large number of university graduates living in Rafah’s tents. Many are willing to help children with lessons.

“We are trying to have some hope despite how difficult this war is,” Sawsan said. “The children have to be kept busy rather than bored or in a state of fear.”

“Our lives suddenly stopped”

Her son Raed, 11, was in sixth grade when the war began.

“My favorite subjects are science and math,” Raed said. “I try to study them but many of the lessons are difficult.”

He has found help from a woman who is teaching children in a nearby tent. He goes to see her two days every week.

Raed has met some of his old classmates in Rafah. They have agreed to gather and learn together.

“Some of them did not have books,” he said. “Others had to burn books so that they could cook food.”

“I hope that we will be able to go home again,” he added. “And go back to school.”

Samia al-Khor used to teach Arabic at a school in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

“Our lives suddenly stopped at the start of the war,” she said.

In November, Samia fled Gaza City for the south.

“We are confined to these small and narrow tents that suffocate us,” she said. “I have sat for long hours thinking about my time in school.”

Samia decided that she would offer Arabic classes for children staying in Rafah’s tents. She focuses on those who had been in first grade before the war.

They are at a crucial age, she believes, in terms of grasping the basics of the language.

Instead of a blackboard, Samia uses “a large piece of wood that I found in the rubble and looked like a broken door.” She had some chalk so was able to write on it.

“Hundreds of thousands of students have lost a year in their lives due to this war,” she said. “I am trying to help a large number of displaced people until this war ends and education returns to normal.”

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.