Gaza parents boycott overcrowded UNRWA-run schools

Parents in Gaza refuse to send children to UNRWA schools citing chronic overcrowding in classrooms

Gaza parents boycott overcrowded UNRWA-run schools

World Bulletin / News Desk

Parents in the Gaza Strip – where the new school year kicked off Monday – have refused to send their children to schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which they say suffer from acute overcrowding.

“Parents are refusing to send their children to schools in which classes typically contain as many as 50 students each,” the UNRWA Students’ Parents Union declared in a Tuesday statement.

The new school year began on Monday in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, despite earlier fears that classes at UNRWA-run schools could face delays due to budget shortfalls.

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasana, however, said that parents’ actions were “unjustified”, going on to voice hope that students would soon start coming to class.

He went on to assert that the maximum number of students in any one classroom would be maintained at 40 and would “not reach 50 under any circumstances”.

But Sohail al-Hendi, head of UNRWA’s Arab Employees Union, welcomed the boycott, saying that even many teachers at the agency’s schools “support the parents’ decision to keep their kids at home”.

In its Tuesday statement, the UNRWA Students’ Parents Union said it would maintain its boycott until classroom conditions were improved.

Responsibility for schooling in the blockaded Gaza Strip is divided between the Palestinian Education Ministry and UNRWA, the mandate of which includes providing education for the children of Palestinian refugees displaced by the Israeli occupation.

According to the ministry, some 1.2 million Palestinian students were scheduled to begin school on Monday, including 700,000 in the occupied West Bank and 500,000 in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Of these, 792,000 are attending state-run schools, 295,000 should attend schools run by UNRWA, and 113,000 are attending private schools, according to ministry figures.

The new academic year began in the territories despite earlier warnings by UNRWA that its schools could face delays due to a serious shortage of funds.

Earlier this month, UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Michel had said that the agency faced a budget deficit this year of some $101 million.

Despite these warnings, however, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl recently announced that classes would begin on Monday in all five regions in which the UNRWA operates.

Krahenbuhl attributed the turnaround to some $79 million worth of fresh contributions from donor countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, the U.S., Switzerland, the U.K., Norway, Sweden and Slovakia.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Ağustos 2015, 17:41