Getting an education has been harder for Sara than for most young Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip. A birth defect – limb length discrepancy – affects her joints, making it difficult for her to stand for long periods; a spinal curvature affects her movement. She has only recently recovered from a hole in her heart. By the age of 13, Sara has undergone surgeries in various Arab and European countries – there was even one school year of which, because of a particularly intense surgery, she missed all but 10 days – only to be told, now, that her body cannot endure any more operations.
Even when she only attended 10 days of the year, though, Sara’s average was 85 per cent. And despite all the challenges she faces, she is an excellent student at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Rimal Preparatory School for Girls. “I study very hard,” she explains. But she is quick to add, “I would not have made this far if it were not for my teachers. I love them, especially my English teacher, for their help and assistance.”
The teachers at Sara’s school encourage her to express all her thoughts and emotions, helping her overcome negative feelings and replace them with positive ones. They make sure to integrate her into group activities, encouraging her to take on leadership tasks; Sara particularly loves playing football and hide and seek with her friends, activities that make her feel equal to the other girls. Her impressive work and success draw praise from both her teachers and her classmates.
Like her teachers, too, Sara has no plans to quit. Her goal is to finish her education and then become a doctor – a surgeon or a cardiologist. She says, “I want to help ease people’s pain and suffering. I will not give up on my dreams, and I will not fail the poor who need treatment and medication, especially those who suffer from the same condition I have.”