Fate of Education in Gaza & the Pandemic COVID19

Online Education … the Myth ?

Documentation of the phone conversations on the 21st of August, and the follow up phone call with Mr. Refat S, GM & president of TCC & ACEA RESPECTIVELY, on the 25th of August 2020.

The core of the conversation was to clarify my query about the difference between the impact of lockdown on education for the periods before and after the breakout of COVID 19. What triggered this clarification, is the blockade applied on Gaza by the Israeli occupying forces (Iof) since 2005, and the cut off of purchasing educational supplies, schools’ construction materials, and exchange of experts and services. Two situations that makes educational services supply to students suffer similarly.

Mr. Refat and Ms. Wafaa replied to this inquiry as follows:

  • The breakout of COVID19 pandemic added struggles and difficulties to the existing challenges of existential psychological being, social comportment, and global integration. The breakout caused a status of continuous raised anxiety among families from what yet to happen. People in Gaza are now more threatened than before.  Beside the existing threats of security, safety, economic catastrophe, and social existence, that were created by the cruelty of the recurrent hostilities performed by the occupying forces and the blockade, there is now the added health threat. These triggered worries caused tension within families, and consequently affected the psychological wellness of parents and children. The resulting deteriorated psychological wellness in families will hinder or even block the child’s learning chances and abilities.

Until this moment, while these points are being documented, when the official commencement time of the academic year in Gaza has arrived, the health and security statuses are still vague. The option of online schooling is still being discussed, so is the regular schooling system with implementation of periodic schools’ shifts.

  1. If regular schooling system with implementation of periodic schools’ shifts is to be approved”, challenges that are associated with this choice will be tremendous. For example:
  • Because students’ numbers in regular classrooms in Gaza in regular days vary between 40 to 50 students, then with the periodic shifts system, students will be divided into new classroom arrangements of 20 to 25 students per classroom. A number that will make social distancing among students during the school day impossible.
  • In regular school days, the school’s buildings operate on a two to three shifts a day. This is due to the irrelative ration of schools’ buildings numbers to the number of school aged children in Gaza. Rescheduling the use of the same schools buildings to serve extra shifts,  will require to have schools operate till night shifts, and will create an enormous shortage in teaching staff numbers, as well as administrators and special services specialists.
  • Due to the blockade which resulted in absence of maintenance materials, and due to continuous hostility strikes, schools building are already dilapidated. Extra load of use of the buildings will require immediate maintenance, an option that is not possible. Moreover, the destroyed or unmaintained sewage systems and the nonhygienic toilets and water fountains, will be a health hazard and an extra health threat, specifically in the current situation with COVID19 breakout.
  • Parents’ elevated fear from having their children carry the virus home, to the family members, specifically the elderly, and in particular with the very limited availability of medical aids due to the blockade,  such fear will push the parents to withdraw their children from schools for this coming academic year.

In the past 10 days, since the 15th of August, and until documenting this conversation on the 25th of August, Gaza lives under daily air strikes and missile attacks performed by the (Iof). In such circumstances, civilians rush to help with rescue operations of the casualties and the injured citizens, in alignment with health and local authorities. After the breakout of COVID19, the measures have changed. Such civilians support will be banned by health authorities, and / or will not be offered by volunteers. Moreover, due to the lack of safety wear, and hygiene equipment, the authorized health rescue teams are more exposed to the pandemic, which triggers a eider spread out. A situation, that causes chaos and panic, and elevated unemployment. University, tertiary institutions, and high school students has been negatively impacted by the elevated unemployment and started dropping out from education institutions. Withdrawal, of high school students, is a noticed action among high school male students in Gaza. They drop out to join a casual job for a quick cash in hand to support their own  and families daily living.

  • Since August 24, Gaza has monitored the spread of some cases of corona due to an infected woman coming to Gaza from the Palestinian occupied territories. Until this moment, the reason for her arrival was not known, and the reason for agreeing to give her an entry permit by the occupation authorities controlling the Peres crossing between Gaza and the occupying Zionist entity. This woman entered Gaza and moved between its institutions and neighborhoods, mixing with many people and transmitting the infection to them. Accordingly, the local authorities in Gaza imposed a complete quarantine with the imposition of a 24-hour curfew for a period of two weeks.

The health conditions will be monitored afterwards, and a decision will be made later to stop the quarantine or to continue it accordingly. This situation occurred at a time when schools were preparing for the start of the new school year. An order that will inevitably force the guardian to reconsider registering his children in schools, in consideration of the consequences resulting from the outbreak of the pandemic.

  • If online schooling systems are approved:
  • Until now, no information was available to us about the readiness of parents and their ability to pursue distance learning. In this regard, we will conduct a field questionnaire through the Teacher Creativity Center and the Arab Campaign for Education for All to measure this readiness. (The questionnaire is attached).
  • Primary level Students between first and fifth grade level, students of learning difficulties, and slow learning students, will face a great challenge in distance learning through electronic platforms. They need to be accompanied by a parent or a professional who can follow up on their learning. The situation that will interfere with the daily life of these adults. Some of them will have to leave their job, and others might hire someone to do their part during their work. This will cause financial hardship for the family due to the tight living conditions, which may prompt a lot of the families to stop registering their children in schools for the next academic year.

Published by Amani Al Amad أماني العمد

Writer - Traveler - Educator - A wife & a mom ... along with being a Lover of justice and beauty ... كاتبة ... سائحة .. مُعلّمة .. زوجة وأم ... وعاشقة العدل والجمال

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