Education

In the West Bank, many rural communities located in ‘Area C’ are deprived of quality infrastructure and public services, especially in the field of education. While building sufficient educational facilities for all children is severely constrained by Israeli policies of denying building permits to Palestinians, the ability of the Palestinian public authorities to maintain the existing infrastructure is curtailed by the military occupation and its negative impact on freedom of movement and planning and zoning. The deprivation of public services is another tool of the Israeli settler colonial project to forcibly displace Palestinians from the rural areas where illegal settlements are spread 18.

Access to education for the Palestinian population is conditioned on a daily basis by Israeli occupation policies and violence which, in addition to directly affecting the student population, have resulted in the loss of many school days. Palestinian female students are often subjected to gender-specific intimidation or humiliation on their way to schools and universities, especially at Israeli checkpoints 19. Some reports have warned of the situation of vulnerability that particularly affects Palestinian girls and young women living in Area C of the West Bank due to their limited access to education and poor educational infrastructure.

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, children and their parents have to brave their way to school, facing obstacles and violence few would know even exist. Since 2019 in the West Bank, over 50,000 Palestinian children have been affected by education-related incidents arising from the Israeli occupation 20. Of the 58 schools under threat of demolition, 50 are in Area C, and 8 are in East Jerusalem. These 58 schools serve around 6,550 children and 700 teachers. In 2022, the Israeli authorities ordered the demolition or stop work order of six schools in Area C, impacting over 206 students and 41 teachers.

The Israeli authorities carried out three demolitions of schools in 2022 incidents, targeting two schools. The Isfey Al Fauqa School in Masafer Yatta was demolished twice –– on 23 November and 6 December – impacting over 85 students and 18 teachers. In this area, as well as in the H2 area of Hebron, many girls drop out of school due to economic hardship in their families and/or to help with household chores or as a measure to avoid exposure to violence or bullying. Despite the obstacles, Palestinian girls and young women have generally made progress in their levels of literacy, education and training at the tertiary level. In fact, 53% of women of higher education age are in higher education, compared to 32% of men in the same age group, according to recent figures (2017) 21 . Some studies suggest that the higher percentage of Palestinian women’s involvement in higher education may reflect the greater social value of women’s education in Palestinian society, but also that Palestinians of the same age may be in prison or forced to leave school and work to provide for their families 22. Education has been a source of both hope and transformation for the Palestinian people.

Since the beginning of the war in Gaza (23 October), education has been suspended in all 19 institutions of higher education in the Gaza Strip, wiping out all universities in Gaza. More than 90 academics and scientists have been killed, including Sufyan Tayeh, rector of the Islamic University of Gaza, and 90,000 university students are unable to attend classes.

Israeli military assaults on Palestinian educational infrastructure are not a new phenomenon. The Islamic University in Gaza has been bombed before, in 2008, 2009 and 2014. Most recently, in August this year, Israel faced international criticism after demolishing a school in the occupied West Bank, just days before the start of a new school year. According to a recent UNESCO report 23, Between January 2019 and September 2021, at least 305 schools and kindergartens in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were hit by Israeli explosive weapons. The term “scholasticide” was coined as early as 2009 24” to describe Israel’s targeting of educational institutions following the destruction of “Operation Cast Lead” and which have been repeated in the 2023-2024 Gaza offensive.