Thousands of Palestinian children denied access to schools - UNICEF
A month into the Palestinian academic year, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today voiced serious concern over the thousands of Palestinian children being prevented from attending school as a result of restrictions imposed by Israel.
"Right now the Israeli military is preventing tens of thousands of Palestinian children and teachers from attending school," said Pierre Poupard, the UNICEF Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. "A generation of Palestinian children is being denied their right to an education."
UNICEF noted that while most of the 1 million Palestinian children of school age have either returned to school or are receiving alternative schooling, more than 226,000 youngsters and over 9,300 teachers have been unable to reach their regular classrooms, and at least 580 schools have been closed due to Israeli military curfews, closures and home confinement.
Israel had an obligation to ensure education was accessible to every Palestinian child, in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF said. At an absolute minimum, mobility restrictions on Palestinian civilians should be lifted throughout the occupied territories during school hours.
The mobility restrictions in these areas have necessitated the creation of a substitute schooling system, with many Palestinian school children now being home-schooled by their parents, or gathering in makeshift classrooms such as mosques, basements, and alleyways.
UNICEF cautioned that the quality of home education could not be assessed or assured, and emphasized that the organizers and teachers of alternative schooling had a responsibility to ensure their actions were in the best interests of children at all times.