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The teacher inspiring the children of Gaza

May 9, 2024 at 12:25 pm

In the midst of adversity, 23-year-old Doa’a Qudaih has emerged as a guiding light for the children of Gaza, offering hope and resilience through the power of education. Turning a tent in Deir Al-Balah refugee camp into a classroom, she has stepped in to address the staggering gap in educational opportunities for Palestinian children due to the Israeli war in Gaza. She is inspirational.

Over the past seven months, more than half a million Palestinian children have been unable to attend school due to the devastating effects of the ongoing genocide. With nearly 90 per cent of Gaza’s schools damaged or destroyed by Israeli air strikes since 7 October, the need for alternative educational spaces has never been more critical.

“We have been displaced from one place to another more than five times because of the danger that is around us,” explained Doa’a.

Danger is everywhere. There is no safe place in Gaza.

Due to the dire situation Doa’a and her family came from the north of Gaza and have been living in Deir Al-Balah alongside other families who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

“I dealt with displaced children who have been subjected to all forms of violence, hunger and loss,” she reflected. “It was difficult to deal with them, but I succeeded in returning life again. It’s not just a classroom; it’s more than that. The Peace and Freedom class brings hope and happiness.”

Before the war shattered her world, Doa’a was pursuing her passion for education as both a student and a teacher. Studying English Literature at Al-Azhar University of Gaza and a Diploma in translation, her life was filled with dreams as well as achievements. However, displacement on 7 October forced her to leave both behind as well as her home, thrusting her into a new, uncertain reality.

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“My dream is to complete the Masters in translation which has stopped because of the war and then study for a PhD to be able to deliver the voice of innocent children to all the world and declare their basic rights,” she told me.

Despite the upheaval, Doa’a remains steadfast in her commitment to her students. “In the Peace and Freedom class I am teaching the children English because it’s a universal language,” she said. “They can call for their basic rights, such as their right to learn and to live in peace and have freedom.”

Twelve-year-old Sara is one of those children. “I want to be a doctor to help children in Gaza,” she said. “I wish to live in peace.” Sharing her aspirations is 9-year-old Jomana, who also wishes to be a doctor in the future.

Recognising the profound impact of education on the future of Gaza’s children, Doa’a took it upon herself to ensure that their right to learn remained intact. “One of the children’s rights which cannot be taken from them is the right to learn and the right to have peace,” she insisted. “Actually, it’s not an option; it’s a must.”

With unwavering determination, Doa’a bought a tent and essential school supplies, determined to rebuild a sense of normality in the minds of her students. “We thought the war would end within one or two months at most, but it’s been more than six months without education because of the war. As a teacher, it’s my duty to recognise the danger of the situation and the importance of education for children to rebuild everything in Gaza again.”

Her brothers were teachers and have helped her to teach mathematics and the Arabic language in order to preserve the children’s identity. Doa’a says that the students have a lot of hope and big dreams for what they would like to achieve in the future.

Before 7 October, Palestinian children were noted to be educationally successful despite the challenges they faced even prior to the latest Israeli war. The determination and zeal that children in Palestine have to learn is amazing, with literacy rates reported to be higher than that of countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, the war has affected the emotional well-being of Gaza’s children profoundly, leaving many yearning for the simple pleasure of attending school.

This is where inspirational initiatives like the Peace and Freedom school tent shine through. They offer hope and inspiration amidst incredible adversity.

In all of this, Doa’a Qudaih stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating the way forward for the children of Gaza through the transformative power of education. She stands resolute in her mission to serve the community and ensure that young Palestinians are not deprived of their basic human rights to live, learn and be free.

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