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  January 6, 2013

Overcrowded Schools in War-Torn Besieged Gaza

Nearly half a million children in Gaza attend dilapidated schools, adding to emotional traumas resulting from wars and siege
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Palestinians have long invested in education, as in investment in the future.

Out of Gaza's 1.7 million population, about 400,000 students receive education at governmental, UN-run and private schools. Some 220,000 children in grades one through nine are currently taught in 245 UNRWA schools in the tiny Costal Strip.

With more than 52% of Gaza's population are children below the age of 18, this means more schools are needed in order to accommodate the growing number of students each year. Currently the majority of students suffer from overcrowding, with 90% of schools work on double shifts.

Gaza's classrooms are now severely overcrowded, and often accommodate up to 45 or more pupils in a class, with three children seated at a desk designed for two.

where one school building serves two completely different sets of teachers and students, due to lack of classrooms

The ministry of education in Gaza say that there is a need to build at least 200 more new schools to overcome the increasing number of students in the tiny strip where the ongoing 6-year long Israeli siege has hampered the construction of new schools due to lack of construction materials. Israel has banned the delivery of construction materials to Gaza since it tightened its siege in June 2007, citing security concerns, except for certain projects run by international NGO's

Access to education is a basic right, but some students do not enjoy this right. Since the siege came into effect in 2007, an estimated 70,000 people have lost their jobs adding to the soar unemployment rate, a big number of students dropped out from schools in order to support their families

UN officials say that, through UNRWA's education system it is spreading the message of universal respect for human rights, peaceful coexistence and tolerance in an atmosphere that since the blockade has become increasingly desperate and radicalized, children draw and paint and take part in art exhibitions

Meanwhile, experts say that a large number of children are suffering from severe psychological, social and behavioral disorders as a result of constant exposure to the traumas produced by the war, occupation and blockade.

Living conditions of children and youth in Gaza under years of Israeli siege and military attacks have been deeply affected by the extremely difficult situation in the impoverished costal territory, a high number of them suffer from physiological problems especially after the recent Israeli 8-day war.

With the help of some childrens' associations and trauma centers, children are given the chance to reveal their hopes and fears, they take part in activities that help traumatized children overcome their emotional trauma

These children are capable of expressing themselves regardless of the pain, the hardships they have been enduring, in particular, the repeated shocks of the Israeli bombardment on Gaza a few weeks ago. However these children are still painting in vivid colors, they are showing smiles as well as tears and they are showing hope.

These children and their parents are resilient in the face of aggression, but only just. There is not enough professional psychological support to help them and they wait in dread every day for the next bombardment. Every time they hear the roaring of F16s or buzzing drones they have flashbacks to the traumas of war.

Yousef Al-Helou

The Real News



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