Despite the heavy destruction to most schools in the Gaza Strip, the thousands of deaths and injuries, the bereaved hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands in the coastal region, Gaza children return to school with full determination to continue their education.
Hundreds of thousands of children return to school, Sunday, after a three-week delay in the start of the new school year, as a result of Israel’s barbaric aggression against the children, the civilians of Gaza, during the the 50-day onslaught on Gaza.
Most of their schools, including UNRWA schools have been heavily bombarded by Israeli missiles and shells, causing hundreds of casualties among the civilians, the families, who took shelter there.
Azhar Tamer Jundiyya, one of the children, stood in front of more than 60 of her schoolmates, to recite a eulogy poem lamenting her slain father, who was killed during the aggression.
She stood there, despite her grief, sadness and the ugliness and cruelty of the war she witnessed, and recited the eulogy with great determination to continue her education and beat all odds.
The 9-year-old lost her father during the heavy Israeli bombardment of homes in the Shuja’eyya neighborhood East of Gaza city.
The neighborhood witnessed the heaviest bombardment and shelling during Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, in the period between July 8 and August 28.
“This is the first day of school. I am so happy to return to school despite the death of my father,’ she said. “I have a dream to become a doctor. I am afraid this war would start once again; they bombarded our home. One Israeli shell struck my room. Another struck the kitchen. Our home collapsed on my father crushing him to death.’
Another child, Isra’, stood in front of her schoolmates trembling with fear, and crying while remembering the bombardment of her home, the death of her grandfather and her aunt, who died in the shelling.
“The martyrs, the wounded, were all over the place, we were so scared,’ she said. “My grandfather, and my aunt Leila, were killed. I saw them lying dead in our home.’
Dua’, nine years of age, came to school wearing her ordinary clothes instead of the school uniform.
She stood there telling the students, and the teachers, that she is terrified the war would return again.
“I came here without my uniform because our home was destroyed by Israeli shells,’ she said. “We left our home and ran away, and when we returned it was all gone.’
Rima Abu Khatla, a teacher in Gaza, said she took special courses in order to be able to talk to students who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), due to what they saw and witnessed during the war; the bloodshed, the destruction and fear during the ongoing Israeli bombardment on Gaza.
“We ask them to talk about what they witnessed during the summer holiday, what made them cry, what made them laugh…’ she said. “We encourage them to speak and share, then we all play and conduct creative activities and games.’
Physiological Counselor, Ibtehal Gheith, said the first day of school is for recreation, to prepare the students for the new school year, adding that upcoming days will be for more psychological rehabilitation of the students, to get them to speak, to share, and to cope so that they can be fully integrated and resume their lives and education.
This is the third war those students witnessed in six years,’ she said.
Samia Za’lan, the headmistress of a local school in Shuja’eyya, stood in front of the school that was largely destroyed by Israel’s shells, while workers were removing the rubble and sealing off buildings deemed unsafe.
She had to transfer some of her students to nearby schools, especially since only nine schoolrooms out of eighteen can be used, due to the Israeli bombardement.
“The school was nearly fully destroyed,’ she said. “We couldn’t accommodate all students, so we had to transfer some of them to nearby schools.’
“Our classrooms are overcrowded; each classroom normally accommodated 35 students, now we have 60 students in each class,” Za’lan added. “Many students couldn’t afford new clothes, uniforms. We welcome them all and try to help them cope with what they witnessed and experienced during this aggression.’
Head of the Ministry of Education in Gaza, Ziad Thabet, said Israel’s shells led to the complete destruction of 24 schools, while more than 120 schools were partially damaged.
As for schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Israeli missiles destroyed at least 70 schools.
“The Gaza strip needs 259 new schools, but Israel prevents the entry of construction materials, as part of its deadly siege on Gaza since 2006,” Thabet said. “Dozens of thousands of Palestinians are living in UNRWA schools, as Israel bombarded and destroyed their homes.”
Adnan Abu Hansa, Media Advisor of the UNRWA in Gaza, said in a press release that displaced families in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, are still living in three schools that were turned into shelters during the war.
“UNRWA schools provide education for 9600 students in the area, there are eleven more UNRWA schools that are housing displaced families.
All students in these schools have been moved to government-run schools that would provide education to them during evening hours,’ Abu Hasna stated.
“The UNRWA in Beit Hanoun decided not to start the new school year in Beit Hanoun,” he added. “The UNRWA will continue its efforts to ensure the resumption of school education in its schools.”
The United Nations said that at least 373.000 children in Gaza have been impacted by this war. Many lost their entire families, or several members of their families.
More than 500 children have been killed, and thousands have been injured, hundreds with permanent disabilities in this aggression, the bloodiest aggression on the coastal region since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Dozens of thousands of homes, many schools, hospitals, clinics, and residential towers have been bombarded and destroyed by Israel’s missiles.
The Ministry Of Health in Gaza said around 2137 Palestinians, including 578 children, 264 women, and 103 elderly, during the latest massive Israeli aggression on Gaza, while more than 11100, including 3374 children, 2088 women and 410 elderly, have been injured.