16 February 2011
“They are giving me the chance and I’ll pass this year with high marks, I am sure,” says 16-year-old Mahmoud Buhaisi, from the eighth grade at Gaza’s Deir El Balah boys’ school. “We are all good. The teacher is good too. He explains things to us very well, and things are becoming much clearer than before.”
The sense of harmony in Mahmoud’s class is plain. The teenagers are all pupils in one of UNRWA’s dedicated classes for over-aged students in Gaza, where the impact of conflict and the chronic socio-economic crisis have badly affected refugee children’s education. Each year, around 15,000 students fail all six subjects in UNRWA’s examinations. Until 2009, they would automatically move into the next grade, without an assessment of why they were failing.
In an effort to address these problems, the Agency has allocated classes in each school for students who have failed two or more years. Experienced teachers provide a specially designed programme with extra learning support and remedial materials.
Mohamed Fayez AbdElHadi, 15, is in the school’s seventh grade. He says: “I feel very relaxed here; we don’t have these very intelligent guys with us. They kept showing off in front of us. They were laughing at us when we want to participate in class. Here we don’t show off to each other.”
Eighth-grader Ahmad Afana, from Al Falooja boys’ school, agrees: “I am in the centre now and the teacher cares about what I say. This makes me feel good, and I want to prove to them that I can be good. Next year come and visit me in the 9th grade.”
For female students at Deir El Balah girls’ school, their desire to succeed has overcome any anxiety they felt about being made the focus of attention. Eighth-grader Azhar abu Thurayya is 17. She says that the teachers understand the girls’ difficult circumstances. “I think I like my teacher more now because she gives me priority. I don’t feel neglected as I used to feel before.”
Azhar and her classmates are all determined to move up to the ninth grade. Abeer Abu Jidyan says: “I now feel I am a focus of attention, which motivates me. The teacher is lovely because she can understand me.”
More than 10,000 Gazan children receive extra help to pass their school year as part of this programme, which UNRWA is able to run thanks to the generosity of donors such as the Japanese government. Last month Japan gave US$ 10 million towards education, health and social services in the occupied Palestinian territory.
More about the emergency situation in Gaza
More about UNRWA’s work in Gaza
Text: Milina Shahin – Public information office Gaza
Photos: Shareef Sarhan – Public information office Gaza