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2008.02.20

* Schools in Gaza re-open after winter break; students face dark, cold classrooms
* 03 min 14 secs
* 02 Feb 2008

In Gaza, students are back in school…but are bearing the brunt of power cuts and shortages in learning materials.

Sometimes sitting in the dark… sometimes in the cold… and trying to do their homework by candlelight… students in Gaza are falling behind and struggling to keep up their grades… and the drop-out rate is rising.

SOUNDBITE, Mohammed Jendeyyeh, 11 years old: “When there is electricity, we understand our lessons, but when electricity is cut, our learning ability is reduced. At home, when doing homework, then we find electricity cut, so we have to use the candle, and nothing except the candle.

SOUNDBITE, Alaa Muhaisen, 11 years old: “Electricity cuts affect us in the classroom where we sit, the room is dark, we can't copy the handwriting from the board and we don’t understand well from the teacher.”

Recent access to Egypt and its shops may have provided some psychological relief from the closure of the Gaza Strip… but … 1.5 million Gazans still rely on Israel for all their supplies. And fuel shortages mean they are experiencing power cuts of up to eight hours a day, and access to running water for only four to six hours a day.

SOUNDBITE, Diana Ayesh, 12 years old: “At school, when it is cold inside the classroom, and there is no light, we cannot concentrate with the teacher and sometimes we feel dizzy because there is no electricity, particularly in first, second and third classes, so we can't pay attention with the teacher. And our present life became like life during ancient centuries.”

UNICEF is trying to help students cope with all this. UNICEF is delivering safe drinking water to 220 schools each day… along with emergency education supplies and is also distributing 100 recreational kits for children living in households hard hit by the power cuts.

But that cannot make up for some things that absolutely require electricity:  SOUNDBITE, Caroline Katbeh, 14 years old: “At school, for example, we need practical applications in the computer
lab in technology subject, so, without electricity, we cannot apply anything, accordingly, information would be decreased and we cannot understand it quickly.

The fuel cuts fell on a population already reeling from months of closures and restrictions… a population predominantly made up of children. For now, children continue to suffer from the restrictions… and are being robbed of their basic right to education.



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