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HomeNewsFutures Shattered, Dreams Unbroken: Navigating Education Amidst Conflict in Palestine

Futures Shattered, Dreams Unbroken: Navigating Education Amidst Conflict in Palestine

By Tendai Makaripe

As dawn breaks over the Gaza Strip, the world awakens to another day of bustling markets, honking cars, and the distant hum of life continuing against all odds.

For ten-year-old Yasmeen, the day begins much earlier.

As the first rays of light pierce her tattered curtains, she meticulously prepares for school, smoothing out the wrinkles on her uniform—a hand-me-down from her older sister—and double-checking her worn-out backpack for her books.

Today, she’s particularly excited about presenting a project on Palestinian folklore.

But as Yasmeen steps outside, her world is a jigsaw puzzle, with some pieces forever lost: buildings lie in ruins, streets bear the scars of recent skirmishes, and the ever-present drones watch over like hawks.

Her path to school is an obstacle course, not of jumping ropes or playful challenges, but of checkpoints, sudden alerts, and heart-stopping moments where the distant skirmishes sound a bit too close.

For children like Yasmeen, the simple act of attending school is an act of bravery, a daily gamble in the quest for a basic right: education.

But beyond the immediate perils of conflict, a broader storm brews on the horizon.

The ongoing strife in the region, coupled with the seeming inactivity of pivotal global entities like the UN Security Council, casts a long, forbidding shadow over Palestinian children’s futures, threatening their access to education and the promises it holds.

As the world probes this crisis, one must question: In a world that promises to uphold the rights of every child, why are the children of Palestine being made to bear the brunt of a conflict between their country and Israel?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a long-standing territorial dispute over the Holy Land, a region of great religious and historical significance to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

 The conflict revolves around who gets to control what land and how it is governed.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, established in 1948, and Palestinians, who hail from the land now controlled by Israel, seek to establish a state called Palestine on all or part of the same land.

With the creation of Israel in 1948, tensions heightened, leading to several wars and countless skirmishes.

Israeli policies make it difficult for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to obtain the necessary permits to build schools, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and limited educational opportunities.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has been heavily affected by restrictions on movement imposed by Israeli authorities.

Checkpoints, roadblocks, and the separation barrier have made it difficult for Palestinian children to commute to schools, resulting in long travel times and disruptions to their education.

In the Gaza Strip, the situation is particularly challenging due to the ongoing Israeli blockade.

The blockade restricts the movement of goods and people, severely impacting the availability of educational resources and infrastructure.

Additionally, the frequent conflicts and military operations in Gaza have damaged schools, making it difficult for children to access education.

Area C, is a part of the West Bank that is under full Israeli civil and security control.

Palestinian communities in Area C face restrictions on construction and development, including the building of schools.

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As a result, children in these areas often have to travel long distances to attend school or face limited access to education altogether.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has had a devastating impact on the education of Palestinian children.

Many schools have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli attacks, forcing thousands of students to relocate or drop out.

Israeli forces have demolished a Palestinian primary school in the occupied West Bank, citing safety issues and drawing sharp criticism from the European Union which had funded the project.

“Appalled by reports that the EU-funded school in Jubbet Ad Dhib is being demolished by Israeli authorities right now. 60 Palestinian children are affected. Demolitions are illegal under international law, and children’s right to education must be respected,” the European Union posted on Twitter.

Last year, Israeli forces demolished a recently-built Palestinian primary school located in the village of Isfey al-Fauqa in the Masafer Yatta region of the southern occupied West Bank, where residents are facing the ongoing threat of forced displacement.

“The Israeli occupation forces demolished a school while it was in session and students were inside,” the head of Masafer Yatta’s local council, Nidal Younis, told global news network Al Jazeera.

“They used sound bombs to scare the children and get them out of the school,” he added.

The school served 22 students from four different villages, where Palestinian residents face forcible displacement.

In August 2021, an Israeli air strike damaged two United Nations schools in the neighbourhood of Zeitoun, Gaza: the Preparatory Boys’ School “A” and the Elementary Boys’ School “A”.

Both operate under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The strike displaced about 4,000 students who had to change schools or study in tents.

The United Nations has also expressed concern over the high number of reported incidents of interference in or near Palestinian schools in the West Bank since the beginning of the school year in September 2018 The UN documented 111 different cases of interference with education in the West Bank affecting more than 19 000 children in 2018 alone.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights unequivocally states that education is a fundamental right of every human being. It’s not a privilege or a reward; it’s a basic entitlement.

Yet, as we step into the heart of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, the stories of Palestinian children present a grim contrast to this global commitment.

The obvious question then arises: Where is the UNSC in all this? Charged with ensuring peace and security on an international scale, the UNSC’s inactivity in addressing the issue, either through resolutions or concrete actions, hints at a deeper malaise.

While the geopolitics of the Middle East is admittedly intricate, with a myriad of competing interests at play, the UNSC seems to be trapped in a web of inaction and indecisiveness when it comes to the Palestinian children’s plight.

One might argue that the UNSC’s hands are tied due to the veto powers of its permanent members or because of the intricacies of international relations.

“But isn’t the very essence of the UNSC to rise above national interests for the greater global good? If a child’s access to education can be disrupted with such impunity, it challenges the very foundations upon which the UNSC stands,” queried international relations scholar Tanaka Mandizvidza.

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Moreover, this isn’t just about bricks, mortar, and access to educational institutions.

It’s about the right of every child to grow, learn, and dream in an environment that is free from fear and intimidation.

It’s about laying the groundwork for a brighter future for these children and, by extension, for the entire region.

The international community, spearheaded by the UNSC, has a responsibility to uphold and enforce the principles it helped craft.

“Unfortunately, its track record, when it comes to the Palestinian issue, has been riddled with inconsistencies and half-measures,” said UK based international affairs scholar Faith Kamupita.

“Advocacy groups and human rights organizations have been persistent in voicing their concerns about these disparities, often highlighting the importance of education in mitigating the long-term impacts of conflict. A well-educated youth can be a beacon of hope, steering societies away from conflict and towards dialogue and understanding.”

 The UNSC’s current stance, or lack thereof, not only undermines the credibility of the institution but also puts at risk the futures of countless Palestinian children.

Each day without adequate education is a lost opportunity, a potential talent wasted, a dream possibly deferred.

Empty rhetoric and siding with Israel as it affects the lives of innocent children should be castigated.

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly last year, US President Joe Biden said: “And we will continue to advocate for lasting negotiating peace between the Jewish and democratic state of Israel and the Palestinian people.  The United States is committed to Israel’s security, full stop.  And a negotiated two-state solution remains, in our view, the best way to ensure Israel’s security and prosperity for the future…”

Such a statement coming from one of the five permanent members of the UNSC shows the lack of political will to address the conflict.

Palestinian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tamer Almassri feels let down by some members of the international community.

“The international community cannot and should not tolerate Israel’s deliberate policy and practice of using lethal force without regard for limits set by international law,” he said.

Zanu PF secretary for External Affairs in the Politburo Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said: “The Israeli regime survives because it has the support of imperialists”.

 The UNSC can take several measures to address this issue.

The UNSC can call for increased funding for education programs in Palestine and Israel.

This funding can be used to improve access to education, provide support for teachers and students, and promote peace education.

It can work with local organizations and governments to develop programs that promote peacebuilding and conflict resolution skills among children.

These programs can help children develop skills that will enable them to resolve conflicts peacefully and build a more peaceful future.

By taking these measures, the UNSC can help ensure that children in Palestine and Israel have access to quality education and a brighter future.

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