Ramallah, West Bank
Schooling for Palestinian children is a story of constant interruptions, closings and curfews, which Palestinians and human rights groups believe are being used to punish people for the ongoing intifada, the uprising against Israeli occupation that started in September 2000.
Schools in Bethlehem were shut down in early January under an enforced curfew.
Other schools, such as the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, stayed open, although it could close at any time since Israeli troops can order students confined to their homes under a curfew. Curfew breakers, even schoolchildren, risk detention without trial. During curfews Israeli soldiers often carry out sweeps for suspected militants. Suicide bombers are often young people, so young Palestinians are often targeted in the crackdowns.
The Ramallah school is one of six run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Palestine. Michael Abu-Ghazale, principal of the School of Hope, said that Palestinian students have been hurt by the political situation. “It is not an easy way to receive an education. From the start of the school year on Sept. 1 last year until we closed for Christmas, 10 days (two full weeks) were lost to curfews.”
Of the 396 students at the school, 61 per cent are Muslim and the rest, Christian.
The Palestinian Ministry of Education reported that by the end of the 2001-2002 school year, 216 students were killed, 2,514 injured and 164 arrested. In addition, 17 teachers and staff were killed and 71 were arrested. More than 1,000 schools were closed for at least three consecutive weeks due to the Israeli crackdown at the end of March until the end of the school year in July. The area’s population is three million.