Learning Inside A War Zone: A Look at How Kids Attain Their Education
A “war crime of the greatest magnitude.”
By Aileen Pablo*

That’s how U.N. special rapporteur Professor Richard Faulk described Israel’s 2009 assault on the Gaza Strip. Perhaps you agree with his views; perhaps you don’t. Regardless, it would be difficult to argue with the fact that Israel’s current occupation of the region has brought harm to many innocents – including children, who make up more than half of the population there.
One of the worst things this blockade has done to Palestinian kids is make their educations far more difficult. Though hundreds of schools are still able to operate, there are a number of problems throughout the region. Here are just a few of the biggest issues.
Overcrowding.The 2009 assault on Gaza saw 18 schools destroyed and at least 280 severely damaged. Moreover, restrictions from Israeli authorities have made it incredibly difficult to build new schools or even repair those too damaged to use, despite the fact that the Ministry of Education and Higher Education said in 2009 that it needed to build 105 new schools. What this means is that the schools that can still operate have to take in far more students than they were built to handle.
This has led to more students for every teacher, shortages in books and other supplies, and somewhere between 80-90 percent of schools moving to a “shift” system to accommodate such ridiculously high numbers of students. In practice, that means that some kids will have school in the morning, while others don’t go in until the afternoon. Naturally, this puts incredible strain on the professionals working in education as well as parents, who have had to alter their schedules to accommodate the time changes.
Excessive wear and tear. Not only are the schools in operation open for longer hours and dealing with more students, most of them are suffering from a lot of wear and tear. Much of this comes from the 51,000 people who were displaced in the 2009 assault and sought refuge in schools. Again, this is a problems that could be solved, but restrictions have made it hard for authorities to invest in any repairs or upgrades.
Malnutrition.It’s not easy for kids to learn when they’re not getting the vitamins and nutrients their bodies – and minds – need, but that’s just the reality for many kids in Gaza. 22 percent of kids between the ages of 1 and 5 are deficient in vitamin A, and a fifth of the children in school don’t get enough iodine. And it’s not just kids – 29 percent of pregnant women are anemic, meaning many kids are born with dietary deficiencies.
Access. Despite all of the overcrowding, there are still many, many school-age kids who aren’t able to attend classes. Of the more than 780,000 in Gaza under the age of 18, only 441, 452 are served by schools. Even accounting for kids too young to attend, that’s a lot of young people not getting an education.
Falling scores. Even before the assault, Israel’s blockade had led to many of these problems. As a result, test scores and overall school performance has been on the decline. Only 20 percent of Gaza sixth graders passed the standardized English, Math, Science, and Arabic tests during the first semester of 2007-2008.
No exit. Those students who somehow do find a way to succeed in this difficult climate discover that it might all be for nothing because the university in Gaza suffered through a lot of destruction, and trying to get out to study abroad is almost impossible due to the blockade. How hard is it? In 2008, only 70 students were able to get out of Gaza using Erez, while hundreds more were held back due to a new policy from Israel saying that they needed diplomatic escorts in order to leave.
The worst part about the whole situation is that it’s not just a problem of the present, but for future generations as the lack of education continues to make it difficult for today’s Gaza children to find economic success throughout their lives. Facing a bleak future, who knows what they might turn to.

About the Author: 
*Aileen Pablo is part of the team behind Open Colleges and InformED, one of Australia’s leading providers of Open Learning and distance education. When not working, Aileen blogs about education and career.She is often invited as a speaker in Personality Development Seminars in the Philippines.


  1. December 6, 2012 at 09:22

    Well done this post

  2. web design said,

    December 6, 2012 at 11:22

    You really hit the nail on the head with a wonderful post with
    a lot of fantastic information

  3. Blake said,

    December 6, 2012 at 15:03

    Its an abomination. Nowhere anywhere in the world do people have to live like this. Western Govts should be ashamed!


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