Back to school in Gaza

Preparations for the school year at the Naim School Supply Store in Gaza. Photo by Gisha.

Preparations for the school year at the Naim School Supply Store in Gaza. Photo by Gisha.

August 31, 2016. Last Sunday marked the beginning of the school year in the Gaza Strip. Around half a million students went back to some 700 schools. Many schools in Gaza run in two shifts due to the severe shortage in classrooms, and some institutions have to share the same building.

According to figures from the Ministry of Education in Gaza, during the previous school year, 260 government schools ran in shifts using 130 school buildings, which is also the number of schools that are needed in order to enable the entire government school system to run in a single shift. Two shift school days also take place in 188 UNRWA schools. Data regarding the current school year is not available yet, but it’s estimated that the shortage of classrooms has not significantly changed in the school year that began this week.

Parents of school children in the Gaza Strip say that both options – having to send their kids to the second shift or arrange child care in the early afternoon – create many difficulties, on top of the fact that studying in two shifts means students have fewer instructional hours. Teachers say this adversely impacts students’ learning and achievements.

Students have access to a full, single shift school day in 135 government schools, 69 UNRWA schools and all 52 private schools in Gaza.

According to Gaza Ministry of Education figures, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, 237 schools were damaged, as well as 199 daycare centers. Of the damaged schools, 91 belong to UNRWA, 187 are government schools and 49 are private schools. Almost all the government schools have been repaired, including 22 that were severely damaged. Five schools that were completely destroyed are still under construction, and instruction will not resume in them this year either. According to UNRWA figures, seven schools were completely destroyed in the fighting in 2014 and only one of them, an UNRWA school, has been rebuilt.