A month into the Palestinian school year, the UNICEF Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Pierre Poupard, today expressed serious concern over the number of Palestinian children being prevented from attending school by Israel-imposed restrictions.
“Right now the Israeli military is preventing thousands of Palestinian children and teachers from attending school,” Mr Poupard said. “A generation of Palestinian children is being denied their right to an education.”
While UNICEF noted that most Palestinian children have either returned to school or are receiving alternative schooling, it said that more than 226,000 children and over 9,300 teachers are unable to reach their regular classrooms and at least 580 schools have been closed due to Israeli military curfews, closures and home confinement.
UNICEF said Israel has an obligation to ensure education is accessible to every Palestinian child, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As an absolute minimum, mobility restrictions on Palestinian civilians must be lifted throughout the OPT during school hours. There are almost 1 million Palestinian children of school age. Children living in the districts of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Hebron are most affected.
The mobility restrictions in these areas have necessitated the creation of a substitute schooling system. Many Palestinian school children are now being home-schooled by their parents, or gathering in makeshift classrooms such as mosques, basements, and alleyways. “Alternative schooling initiatives are an indication of the extent to which the regular lives of Palestinian children are being devastated by this conflict,” said Mr Poupard.
UNICEF cautioned that the quality of home education can not be assessed or assured. UNICEF emphasized that the organizers and teachers of alternative schooling have a responsibility to ensure their actions are in the best interests of children at all times.
UNICEF is currently implementing a ‘back to school’ campaign to help ensure that the poorest Palestinian children can afford to stay in school. The campaign includes the provision of school uniforms and school bags - expenses that often keep poor children out of the classroom. The campaign is supporting over 14,000 children.
“This year, with the economy on the verge of collapse, many Palestinian parents are unable to afford to send their children to school. UNICEF appeals to the donor community for further support,” Mr Poupard said. Some 317,000 Palestinian school children are now in desperate need of assistance due to financial hardship.
Last school year, UNICEF supported a community-based education program in Hebron and Khan Younis assisting over 12,250 Palestinian children whose education was disrupted as a result of the crisis. This year, UNICEF is expanding the program by supporting officially-endorsed home schooling initiatives.
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