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Israel and the autonomous and occupied territories: Back to school – in a tent

12-09-2002 News Release 02/37

Children are going back to school in the Gaza Strip, but for teachers in Mawasi, the start of the new school year has brought with it more than the usual challenges.

Mawasi lies along the Mediterranean coastline, cut off from the rest of the Palestinian territories by a large Israeli settlement. A so-called closed area, every entry and exit for the 7,000 Palestinians living in Mawasi is controlled by Israeli soldiers. There are two primary schools, but no places of higher education. Secondary school pupils and their teachers have to travel daily across a checkpoint to a school in a nearby town, an arduous journey and one which is impossible whenever the enclave is put under closure or curfew.

In the town's Khan Younis Primary School, 900 children are crammed into 28 rooms: 32 to a class. Six tents provided by the ICRC last year partially solved the problem of overcrowding, but there are an additional 470 pupils joining the school this autumn, and the teachers are at a loss as to where to put them.

On 4 September, therefore, the ICRC delivered another six large green canvas tents to the school. Some of them will be used for the younger children, and others for the secondary school students for whom the difficult journey back and forth to town each day is simply too much.

" I'm glad that we've been able to ease this difficult situation " , remarked ICRC delegate Nicolai Panke when he handed over the tents to the school's beaming caretaker. The ICRC will bring in five more tents in the coming days for the other primary school, which is also overcrowded.