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“School has become a scary place”


Emergency | Inclusion | Occupied Palestinian Territories | PUBLISHED ON April 17th 2024
In the West Bank town of Jenin, the headmistress of a boys' elementary school stands in a classroom. Behind her is a television screen.

Salman in class | © HI

Salam is the director of the Boys Elementary School in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. She tells us about the dangers of teaching in a context of armed violence.

Since 7 October and the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, some 33,000 Palestinians have been killed and 75,000 injured in the constant bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces. This deadly offensive comes in the wake of a massive attack launched on Israel by Hamas, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 Israelis and foreign nationals taken hostage.

There has also been an escalation of armed violence in the West Bank since 7 October. More than 350 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 injured. A dozen Israelis have also lost their lives.

Salam tells us how armed violence is affecting her school. One incident in particular has left a vivid mark in her memory:

School under attack

Since the summer of 2023, the Israeli Security Forces have made repeated incursions into Jenin City, and especially into Jenin Refugee Camp. This has affected the students’ classes and curriculum. They and their teachers are all anxious and scared.

An incident particularly choked me: Last November, there was an incursion into the camp, and the students were in school. I hurried to close the doors and sent the students with their teachers to safer classrooms with windows facing away from what was happening. I asked the teachers to continue teaching as normal so the students wouldn’t feel anxious.
The school's courtyard was very exposed and we could hear heavy gunfire outside the walls.

The students and the teachers stayed in the school until nightfall, without electricity, water or functioning mobile phones, as their batteries had died. There was only a limited amount of food was available in the school cafeteria. We took everything we could find - biscuits and juice - because the children were hungry.
This was the most harrowing of the numerous incursions.

When I returned to the school the next day to fetch some belongings, I felt afraid. I realised that my beloved school was no longer a safe place. It had become a scary place.
During the incident, we were brave, but afterward, we were in tears.

Online class

Now, almost all the schools in the camp switch to online teaching platforms whenever there are incursions and closures. However, not all students can access online education. Some leave their homes at night to sleep at relatives' houses for fear of army incursions into the camp. Some have siblings who are also studying, and there are not enough devices to go round. And also, the electricity in the camp is often cut off, which means the students can’t access their online classes.

Because of the pandemic, teachers strikes, closures and violations by the occupying forces, many students are missing out on lessons and not acquiring the skills they need to move up to the next academic level.

Call for an immediate ceasefire

HI continues to be alarmed by the very high number of civilian victims, the lack of safe humanitarian access and the limited number of trucks being able to enter the Gaza strip daily. Along with more than 800 organizations, HI is calling for an immediate ceasefire to put an end to the carnage and ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected population.

HI and Inclusive Education in Palestine

HI’s programme in Palestine promotes the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. Among other initiatives, our teams target communities to identify girls and boys with disabilities who are out of school or at risk of dropping out. They refer these children to specialised service providers in the sectors of health, protection, shelter, and livelihoods, based on their individual needs, to support their inclusion. The programme also equips targeted schools with learning and teaching materials and provides hearing, visual, and educational technologies for boys and girls with disabilities. HI's overarching goal is to enable nearly 3,000 children with disabilities to access education.

Since 7 October, owing to the escalation of violence and restrictions on movements in the West Bank, HI has adjusted its activities, remotely assessing school accessibility and conducting training and providing support to education online. HI has also organised recreational activities for 600 children in six affected schools.

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