The school year in Gaza began this morning, three weeks late

Boys’ school in Gaza, this morning. Photo for Gisha

Boys’ school in Gaza, this morning. Photo for Gisha

September 14, 2014. Approximately half a million students began the school year in Gaza this morning. The school year was scheduled to commence three weeks ago, on August 24, but due to the hostilities, and because the schools subsequently continued to shelter tens of thousands internally displaced persons, the start date was postponed until today.

Twenty-six government schools were completely destroyed during the hostilities. These were mostly located in northern Gaza, the area most severely impacted by the fighting. Even before the latest round of hostilities, there was a shortage of over 200 schools in Gaza, of which about 150 were government schools. Most schools in Gaza, both governmental and those run by the United Nations, conduct classes in two shifts or more. As a result, there is a separate count for schools and structures: UNRWA reports that it ran 245 schools in 155 buildings.

Teachers in UNRWA schools, attended by 245,000 students, underwent special training to enable them to address post-traumatic stress experienced by students. The training was also designed to equip the teachers with tools to identify students who require additional psychosocial counseling.

According to UNRWA’s estimate, once the construction of 100 schools that had been planned in the wake of Operation Cast Lead (2008-09), is completed, it will be necessary to construct between four to eight new schools every year to meet the needs arising from natural growth. In addition to the school structures destroyed during the July-August hostilities, thousands of housing units and public buildings need to be rebuilt or repaired, which will require an extensive and continuous supply of construction materials. At present, small quantities of construction materials, for projects managed by international organizations, are entering Gaza.​