Going to School in Gaza: Finding Resilience in Makeshift Classrooms

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In May 2024, days before internally displaced Gazans in Rafah were told to evacuate, the Education Cluster in Palestine visited a temporary learning space (TLS) in the Al Mawasi area.

Despite the escalation of hostilities, communities have shown resilience and determination in demanding the resumption of education for their children, and the Cluster has received numerous reports of community-led initiatives at informal sites. In some locations, families generously offer their housing tents on a rotational basis for children to engage in educational activities. These initiatives are further bolstered by the dedication of volunteer teachers from within the same neighborhoods.

The establishment of temporary learning spaces in the Al Mawasi area, spearheaded by a university lecturer, Anwar*, profoundly impacted the community. He mobilized volunteer teachers from sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and secured the support of ten tents to set up classrooms. At the time of the visit, the space had enrolled 720 children – a clear testament to the teachers’ dedication and the community's collective unwavering commitment to education.

Nour*, one of the volunteer teachers in the TLS, shared the children's experience without access to education, painting a dire picture of their daily struggles: “[After] more than 4 months without learning, without [a] healthy life, our students feel very happy to be here and they want to learn.”

In Gaza, more than 625,000 students continue to miss out on education or access to a safe learning environment due to school closures and attacks on education since the 7th of October. A satellite-based assessment conducted in April 2024 from the Education Cluster reports that 85.8% of schools in Gaza have sustained some level of damage to their buildings.

While Cluster partners are delivering coordinated Education in Emergencies support, they have only reached 34% of children targeted in the Education Cluster Plan. The restrictions on entry of education supplies, lack of spaces for education activities in the informal displacement sites, and denial of fuel for education partners all hamper the delivery of education interventions.

Anwar emphasized that educators and volunteer teachers are facing a number of pressing challenges that require urgent attention and support. They are in dire need of stationery and textbooks, as well as internet access to download self-learning materials. They also lack recreational materials to engage children in structured play activities and fuel to provide electricity as the summer heat intensifies. The teachers, who are currently volunteering their time, have no compensation, and it is increasingly difficult for them to sustain their needs without paid jobs.

The TLS initiative presents a case that needs partner support to increase coverage, as more children in the displacement site are enrolled in the facility, and the Cluster is mapping out various initiatives in the community. As the TLS can and should be used as an entry point for different services, this initiative provides an opportunity to link the TLS to partners and other Clusters for support.

Standing in a tent full of young students being used as a makeshift classroom, Nour and Anwar call for a ceasefire, which will allow them to return to their homes and for children to return to school.

*names have been changed

Banner photo: ©UNICEF/UNI571249/El Baba


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