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UN official: 180,000 Gaza children attend, return to damaged schools

1.2 million students are starting school on what is the first day of the academic year in Palestine

Nearly 180,000 Gaza children will be attending or returning to schools that are still damaged because Israel has not allowed the entry of material needed to repair them, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings, said yesterday.

In a statement, marking the start of the new school year, Hastings said: "Today, Sunday 15 August, marks the return to school for some 1.2 million children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

Hastings highlighted two issues that pose challenges to the continuation of the school year in Gaza, including COVID-19 and the schools damaged by Israel during the offensive on the besieged enclave in May.

"COVID-19 has meant that, in the last school year, keeping up with classes from home was more challenging, particularly as only 35 per cent of Palestinian households having access to home computers," Hastings said.

Schools in Gaza have been closed since the escalation in May; and today, nearly 180,000 children in the Gaza Strip aged from 4-17 will be attending or returning to schools that are still damaged because materials needed for repairs have not been allowed into Gaza.

"Children not only have a right to a safe education but are afforded special protections under international human rights law in view of their specific vulnerability," she added.

READ: 71% of Palestinian students passed the Tawjihi high school exam

Hastings also said: "Against all of these odds, Palestinian children have much of which to be proud," highlighting that "almost 97 per cent of elementary school-age children in Palestine attend school, among the highest attendance rates in the MENA region and illiteracy is down markedly from 1.1 per cent in 2007 to 0.8 per cent."

"Today is a day to celebrate as children go back to school: all of us need to make sure they can do so in security, safety, and with hope," she stressed.

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