Sun, January 25, 2009
World > Middle East > Israeli assault on Gaza

Gaza schools reopen after one-month suspension

2009-01-24 14:36:05 GMT2009-01-24 22:36:05 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Gaza children pose for photos during their break in the Beit Loliya Boys Elementary School in Gaza city Jan. 24, 2009. Some 200,000 Gaza children returned to school for the first time since Israel's offensive. (Xinhua/Zhang Ning)

Gaza children have physical exercise class in the Beit Loliya Boys Elementary School in Gaza city Jan. 24, 2009. Some 200,000 Gaza children returned to school for the first time since Israel's offensive. (Xinhua/Zhang Ning)

Gaza children play basketball during their break in the Beit Loliya Boys Elementary school in Gaza city Jan. 24, 2009. Some 200,000 Gaza children returned to school for the first time since Israel's offensive. (Xinhua/Zhang Ning)

GAZA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- In the aftermath of the 22-day Israeli military offensive on Gaza Strip, which unilaterally ended a week ago, schools run by the Hamas-ruled Ministry of Education and the UN were back to work on Saturday.

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire last week following a three-week air and ground offensive on the enclave, killing and wounding thousands of people. Thousands of homes, mosques and schools were also destroyed by Israeli missiles, bombs and shells, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna has earlier said that some 36 schools that his humanitarian organization runs were opened to shelter around 40,000 people, who had their homes being destroyed or evacuated during the war.

Gaza education officials estimated that 250,000 pupils went back to their classrooms in 384 schools spread all over the enclave, amid a status of sadness, shock and despair. According to official reports, Israel has also destroyed 35 UNRWA and governmental schools.

Dona Matta, a 16-year-old Gaza Christian pupil who studied at Gaza City's Holy Family School said she was "completely shocked" when she went back to school this morning.

"I discovered that my classmate Christine al-Torok was killed during the war," Matta said, adding "It's nice to get back to school after all what happened. I'm happy to be back, but I'm very sad at the same time to see that Christine's vacant."

Schools in northern Gaza Strip towns of Beit Lahia and Jabalia gained the worst destruction ever. Around 24 schools in that area were totally destroyed, ten of them temporarily renovated, a fact that obliged the pupils to spend the day in other schools, which either were renovated or were not damaged.

"The war is over now. There are so many people killed and many houses destroyed, but the psychological conditions of the people are still bad and we need a long time for a physiological therapy," said Matta.

The Ministry of Education pointed out in a statement that they are facing many troubles with the schools that had been damaged in southern Gaza.

A statement sent to reporters said these schools will be enforced to join two or three classes in one room, rising the number of pupils in the single class to 120 each. As a matter of fact, their ability of understanding is weakened.

After reaching their damaged schools that were directly targeted by rockets, students were shocked to know that many of their friends were either killed or critically injured, which madethem feel sorrow.

Mohamed Abu Jalala, a 15-year-old pupil from Jabalia refugee camp school of al-Fakhoura, which was shelled by tanks with some 55 civilians killed during the war, said "It was very difficult to get back to our school which was a shelter for families and was hit by bombs."

"I can still see marks of the bombs on the walls of the school. It was very difficult and hard, not only for me, but also for all our classmates and children who came back to school today," said Mohamed.

He added with sadness and sorrow that four of his classmates were killed and ten others of other classrooms are still hospitalized. "I'm very disappointed and sad. I hate Israel for what it did to us, and I think no one would forgive Israel for the crimes it committed against us."

During the 22-day Israeli offensive, medical officials said that 1,334 were killed, including 437 children, adding that 5,450 were wounded. Many of them died of their sustained wounds.

"This week was specialized for psychological rehabilitation for the pupils to support them and give them the chance to talk freely about what they have inside," said the Ministry of Education.

Teachers also will be instructed to be able to deal with the families who lost their homes during the war. These families are still living there till they can find another place.

The ministry added that they are about to make a statistic for the pupils to know the figure of dead pupils. It also will provide aid to those who lost their homes.

Many of the families who are taking refuge at UNRWA schools said they are fed up with the life they have there especially after resuming the academic year. They asked for moving to other places or even tents to protect them from cold weather and rain.

"I believe that this is not the end. Gaza exists, Israel exists and the conflict will keep going on even if there is a ceasefire. This conflict will only end when peace between us and Israel is reached," said Lara Darweesh, a 17-year-old high-school pupil.

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