Lessons learned in protecting Palestine’s education system

26 February 2016

“I am afraid to come to school whenever I hear loud noises. My parents force me to come to school, but I can’t wait to go home because of all the noise that I hear around the school.”

These were the words of Mahmoud, a seventh grader (aged 12) at the Palestinian Al-Qastina Boys School in Northern Gaza back in August 2011. He was interviewed as part of UNESCO’s crisis-disaster risk reduction (c-DRR) programme to protect education from emergencies in the Gaza Strip.

Starting shortly after the 2008-2009 Gaza War, the UNESCO programme began working with 29 vulnerable Palestinian schools – including Mahmoud’s. The programme, which lasted until 2012, used various interventions to help develop local capacities and improve emergency preparedness.

The UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) has now published a study entitled, “Palestine: Lessons from UNESCO’s crisis-disaster risk reduction programme in Gaza.” The 38-page study brings together experiences, lessons  learned and more recent reflections.

Written by Bilal Al hamaydah, Jo Kelcey, and Ferran J. Lloveras, the report describes a number of interventions designed to build on existing capacities started by the Ministry of    Education and Higher Education and the larger education community. These included the creation of school safety committees, starting an SMS alert system for schools and parents, and human rights monitoring to report on violations of the right to education.

The programme also provided training on the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) Minimum Standards, safety and evacuation, and first aid.

“Good preparedness is key to boosting the education sector’s capacity to mitigate negative impact and speed up recovery after crisis,” writes Lodovico Folin-Calabi, the head of UNESCO Ramallah, in the introduction.

The importance of this work entered the spotlight again during the 2014 July-August war in Gaza, during which 26 schools were completely destroyed and 122 damaged. Before the conflict broke, Gaza’s education system was already suffering from a shortage of at least 200 schools.  

“In such volatile contexts, the strengthening of institutional and individual capacity to ensure the safety of schools should be an ongoing priority of government and non-government stakeholders alike,” continues Folin-Calabi.

The Country Notes from Palestine can be used as resource for education stakeholders in other countries where education requires protection from insecurity and armed conflict.

The study was funded by Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), a programme of Education Above All (Qatar). It is part of a longstanding partnership with PEIC and collaboration to build safety, resilience and social cohesion in education, through educational planning and curriculum Visit education4resilience.iiep.unesco.org for more information.

 Access the study here