Schools are under attack in many parts of the world, but this is not always documented and there is a lack of awareness about the scale of this issue. Palestine is one of the locations where attacks on schools have been persistent over a long period, but there is a lack of regular coverage. Between 2015 and 2019, over 4,000 Palestinian school and university students and educators were reportedly harmed by attacks on education, the highest number worldwide during the five-year period The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has identified Palestine among the countries worst affected by attacks on education in recent years.
GCPEA has developed a Toolkit for Collecting and Analysing Data on Attacks on Education to further examine the scope and consequences of attacks on education. This has been applied to Palestine where the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) Education Cluster and its its partners, regularly collect data on both the incidence and impact of attacks on education, including damage to infrastructure or education materials, injury or other harm to students or personnel, and the impacts of these on teaching and learning.
Making use of data which has been verified and collected by the Education Cluster between January 2019 and September 2021, a case study from GCPEA ‘Measuring the Impact of Attacks on education in Palestine’ covers two common forms of attacks on education in Palestine: teargas and other weapons firing at students, educators, or schools; and damage to facilities produced by the use of explosive weapons.
It is alarming to hear that ‘the use of teargas, stun grenades, and other weapons injured 480 students and educators and caused at least 9,650 to lose time learning or teaching between January 2019 and September 2021.’ It is also evident that that around a quarter of schools in Gaza were damaged during hostilities in May 2021 and that damage to facilities by explosive weapons caused students and teachers to miss out on at least 249 hours of class between January 2019 and February 2021. It is essential that this information is documented and verified so that responses can be planned and equally that it is reported in the first place.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has also reported on these attacks in Palestine, including Israeli Defence Forces raids on schools, arrest and assault of children in schools and at checkpoints, firing towards children and blocking teachers and students from reaching schools. Schools have been demolished completely and education equipment confiscated. Many of these schools have been funded by the EU and other European governments. NRC’s Jan Egeland comments: ‘Israel, as the occupying power, has failed to ensure that Palestinian children can safely access schools. The Israeli forces have instead themselves denied children education and demolished schools for vulnerable communities in the West Bank.’ The climate of fear this causes and the denial of the right to education should be of deep concern, as these are serious breaches of international law.