Children with Disability: Restoring their Right to Education in Gaza

Shams Al Amal’s School Allowed around 160 students children with Disability return to their School After its Reconstruction

Mohammad attending one of the classes at Shams Al Amal School in Gaza

Mohammed Al Dalou is a 12-year-old smart and enthusiastic student at the sixth elementary grade in Shams Al Amal School for the Physically Disabled in Gaza. He was born with a physical disability and muscular dystrophy, making it difficult for him to perform any activity independently such as walking, bathing, etc. Mohammed dreams of completing his education and becoming a doctor to treat people, heal their pain and alleviate their suffering.

Shams Al Amal School is one of the only few schools caring for children with disability in Gaza and was almost completely destroyed during the 2014 hostilities. This has led to the displacement of more than 160 students and teachers with physical disabilities. Determined not to close its doors despite the numerous challenges; the school operated in tents and temporary shelters until it was reconstructed.

“After the 2014 hostilities, I came to my school, but found nothing except for rubble. I was shocked when I saw the school destroyed. It was the worst experience ever; the main source of hope in this difficult situation has disappeared and we had to continue our studies in temporary shelters or caravans. The situation was awful because the caravan was not equipped for persons with disabilities like us, making it very difficult to move safely. I hated the school at that time and decided not to complete my studies until my teacher told me that our school will be rehabilitated again,” Mohammed recalls.

The destruction of the school left the students with no alternative for their education. Ensuring a resilient recovery process, and as part of the Right to Education Programme, UNDP, with financial support from Qatar Fund for Development, through Education Above All's Al Fakhoora Programme, removed the rubble generated from the destruction of Shams Al Amal School and rebuilt it in accordance with the principles of Building Back Better (BBB). The intervention included the construction of an additional floor comprising of six classrooms, a computer laboratory, an administration office. Reconstruction works also included the installation of a photovoltaic solar system of 8 Kw capacity to overcome the chronic electricity shortages in Gaza and enable the school to become energy efficient. Guided by the principles of a Child Friendly School (CFS), the school was equipped with water and sanitation facilities, customized to facilitate safe and easy access of a child with disability.

Speaking with relief, Mohammed said “Now, the school looks amazing. I just love the colourful walls, the new classrooms and the garden. Actually, everything at the school is inspiring; the school is much more suitable for me now so I can move easily from one place to another without suffering… that gives me independence and makes me happy. Now I can say that I love going back to school and even aspire for higher education”.

The positive impact the rebuilding of the school has had was not only on the students but also the teachers and principal who were very pleased with the new structure after two years of hardship. “The school, the classrooms and all the facilities are outstanding, and that has played a key role in improving our students’ psychological well-being. Actually, Mohammed has become a confident student as he went from a child who could barely read to an honour student in some subjects,” Mohammed’s teacher concluded.

Shams Al Amal School for the Physically Disabled Children was founded by the Society of Physically Handicapped People in 1994. The school’s main objective is to provide children with physical disability with their rightful opportunity to education. Shams Al Amal School serves around 160 persons with Disability (44% female and 56% male), including 135 students and 23 teachers and caregivers.

With financial support from Qatar Fund for Development, through Education Above All's Al Fakhoora Programme, UNDP is implementing a USD 21 million programme to reconstruct, rehabilitate and expand 51 educational facilities which were damaged during the 2014 hostilities, and respond to the current deficit of classrooms in Gaza. Approximately, 182 classrooms are being reconstructed in 19 public schools in Gaza, contributing to alleviating the overcrowding rate of 37.1 students per classroom at Gaza schools and reducing double and triple shifts. As a core principle for resilient recovery, the reconstruction of schools followed the principles of Building Back Better (BBB) Child Friendly School (CFS) to ensure adequate and a child-cantered learning environment for children in Gaza.

Highlights

  • WHO reports that about 300,000 Palestinians, or 7% of the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, are living with a disability.
  • According to Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Around 1,134 individuals injured in the war on Gaza Strip in 2014 are expected to be left disabled.
  • Following the 2014 hostilities, 24 schools were completely destroyed and 190 schools, including 70 UNRWA schools and 120 government schools, have been damaged in Gaza. 12 higher education institutions were damaged, in addition to tens of kindergartens, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education.
  • The ‘Right to Education in the Gaza Strip’ programme, will allow over 600,000 Palestinian children and youth to regain equitable access to quality education. The programme is also mainstreaming the Building Back Better and Child Friendly School (CFS) principles in the overall reconstruction process of the different educational institutes.
  • So far, the recovery and reconstruction of 12 school extensions contributed to providing an adequate learning environment for 9,760 students (4,995 girls and 4,765 boys).
  • The rehabilitation of seven higher education institutions was completed, benefiting 21,151 students (11,946 female and 9,205 male).