UN urges protection of Palestinian children as school starts
The UN has demanded the safety of Palestinian children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank as a new school year starts.
UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings said in a statement that the coronavirus pandemic has meant that the majority of Palestinian children were unable to keep up with schooling from home as only 35 percent of households in the territories have access to computers.
Schools in the besieged Gaza Strip have been closed since Israel launched its 11-day assault on the enclave, in May, killing 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounding more than 1,900 people.
A further 11 children were killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since then.
As of this week, nearly 180,000 children in the Gaza Strip aged 4-17 will be attending school despite many of them still being damaged and materials needed for repairs not allowed into Gaza.
"Children not only have a right to a safe education but are afforded special protections under international human rights law in view of their specific vulnerability. Since the beginning of 2021, a total of 79 Palestinian children have been reported killed and 1,269 injured," Hastings said.
As of the end of June, 225 Palestinian children were detained in Israeli detention facilities, Hastings added.
On 29 July, Israeli forces seized equipment including computers and hard drives from the offices of Defence for Children International - Palestine. Some of the items taken were legal aid files of the children facing charges in military courts.
Israeli terrorists throw rocks at Palestinian children as they walk to school in the city of Lod. pic.twitter.com/EOw8lJTnOU— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) June 10, 2021
Despite the obstacles, Palestinian children showed defiance in ensuring their right to an education is met.
"Against all these odds, Palestinian children have much of which to be proud. Almost 97% of elementary school age children in Palestine attend school, among the highest attendance rates in the MENA region and illiteracy is down markedly from 1.1% in 2007 to 0.8%," Hastings said.
"In 2021, 71.3 per cent of the 82,924 students in Palestine passed the Tawjihi exams, opening a gateway towards tertiary education and access to academic scholarships."
She said that the start of school for Palestinians "is a day to celebrate as children go back to school: all of us need to make sure they can do so in security, safety and with hope".