A day in the life of a Palestinian refugee student in the West Bank – Occupied Palestinian Territory
Fatima Katash is 13 years old. She is a grade 8 student at UNRWA Jalazone Primary School for Girls in the West Bank. Almost every day, Fatima and her classmates encounter problems when they go to school.
The Fatima school is located between the refugee camp and the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in Israeli-controlled “area C”. Because the settlement and the camp are so close, Israeli security patrols and a military presence often lead to clashes with Palestinian refugees.
With the humanitarian support of the EU, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) ensures the protection of the pupils of this school.
During incidents, the UNRWA protection team interacts directly with the IDF to advocate for the protection of children and to defuse the situation. The team also helps coordinate the evacuation of students and staff.
Documenting the potential violations, the team voices its concerns to the Israeli authorities. Whenever certain risks or trends become evident, UNRWA tries to address them.
For example, the protection team was instrumental in deploying tear gas response training for students and staff.
* “I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers. I am the third oldest,” * says Fatima. She is also a member of the UNRWA student parliament. “*What I* like about school, it’s seeing my friends, my teachers and being active in the student parliament. However, the school is too small for the number of students, and it is too close to Beit El, which makes it dangerous for us. “
The continued expansion of the Israeli settlement has led to intense clashes between camp residents and the Israeli military, which frequently uses tear gas, plastic-coated metal bullets and live ammunition during operations.
The location of the school poses a real protection problem. In 2020, Israeli security forces carried out at least 93 operations in the camp, injuring four people and detaining 69, including five children.
“* Going to school is not safe because it is very close to the Beit El settlement and also far from my house. If there are any incidents near the settlement, I have to run a long distance. “, says Fatima.
“* I don’t know, but I think students in Europe or America live their lives normally without these problems. * As a Palestinian child, I hope that I will one day live in freedom and peace and be able to move around freely without checkpoints or searches “, she explains.
Protect Fatima and her classmates
With humanitarian support from the EU, UNRWA provides protection services to UNRWA students such as Fatima and protects their right to education.
The use of tear gas by Israeli security forces during operations in Jalazone is a recurring feature of the lives of camp residents, with 13 tear gas incidents in 2020 alone. The long-term consequences of tear gas raise medical concerns.
In September 2020, the IDF fired tear gas canisters near the UNRWA Jalazone school, with a bomb landing in the schoolyard. In coordination with the UNRWA protection team, school staff kept the children inside until the clashes were over.
Our partner UNRWA liaised with the Israeli security forces to defuse the situation and ensure the safety of the children.
“When there are incidents that occur in and around the school, such as break-ins, the use of tear gas or military operations, we call the UNRWA protection team who are trying to do something about it. so that it doesn’t happen again, ”says Mr. Mustafa of the UNRWA school. director of the Jalazone Palestinian refugee camp.
With our funding, UNRWA is able to provide this protection assistance to Palestinian refugee children. Their schools and students are frequently exposed to tear gas, sound bombs and other forms of weapons, including twice this year.
Such incidents can lead to fatalities and injuries as they have done in the past. They are very stressful and disruptive to children’s education and development and can have long-term impacts on physical and mental well-being.
Ali Khatib (left), Deputy Head of Protection and Neutrality at UNRWA, points out that “Ensuring the protection of UNRWA schoolchildren and ensuring their right to education is one of our most important tasks. important. We want children to feel safe inside schools and not afraid on their way to school. By helping to create a positive learning environment for children, we are directly contributing to a better future for the next generation.
Fatima says, “I want to help realize the dream of Palestinian children of living in peace and freedom. This is the thing I want the most. I imagine that if the occupation ends, we will be able to live in freedom and in peace.
Last updated on 10/28/2021