At least 56 Palestinian schools in the West Bank currently have pending demolition or stop-work orders from the Israeli occupation authorities, children’s rights groups have claimed.
In a joint statement released this week, Save the Children, UNICEF and the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) warn of “increasing protection risks” for Palestinian children under Israeli military occupation.
As students returned to school for the new year, “scores” of Palestinian children “continue to struggle to realise their right to education”, the statement notes.
“School demolitions, confiscation of equipment, double shifts, inability to prioritise education and underfunding have complicated children’s access to education,” it adds.
Just in the past two weeks, the groups note, “three elementary schools / kindergartens were demolished or had their equipment confiscated” by Israeli occupation forces.
According to the humanitarian groups, in 2016 alone, 256 education-related violations were documented in the West Bank, affecting nearly 30,000 students.
Many children have to study in schools with little protection from the heat or the cold; some face long journeys, delays at military checkpoints, harassment and violence, military activity in or around the school, or have to cross military areas and firing zones.
In occupied East Jerusalem, meanwhile, there is a shortage of about 2,000 classrooms in the municipal public education system, with only 339 new classrooms currently planned.
In the Gaza Strip, children attend massively overcrowded schools, as well as being “forced to study in darkened classrooms and sometimes do their homework by candlelight due to the unprecedented deterioration in the energy crisis”.
Robert Piper, Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt, said: “We must all stand up and be counted in defence of the right of Palestinian children to a sound education and in a safe environment. International law is unambiguous here – children and classrooms enjoy unique protections that must be respected by all.”
The statement urged an end to the Israeli authorities’ “access restrictions” and demanded that measures be “taken to avoid threats, violence and confrontation on the way to and at school”.