Gaza Caravan School

Sitting in her rusty caravan school in the southern city of Rafah, Mariam al-Habbash braces for yet another cold winter with no escape from rains and chilling freezing.

"In summer we melt inside the caravans and in winter it is cold and the ceiling leaks," Habbash, 15, told Reuters on Monday, October 27.

Located in the village of Mawasi, Habbash’s school is made of a dozen of caravans serving more than 450 students, girls and boys.

In winter, classes turn into polls as water leaks from the ceiling.

The school’s backyard, which is usually used by students as a playground, also turns into a muddy swamp.

The school students and staff accuse officials of failing to make good on promises to build concrete classrooms.

"Many people visit us but the visits are useless," says a disappointed Habbash.

"This is the only caravans school in Palestine."

Palestinian officials have been unable to move the students into concrete classes because of the stifling Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Israel has closed the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Israel tightened its siege on the coastal territory, home to 1.6 million people, last year, banning fuel and food shipments.

The shortage of construction materials is affecting efforts to rebuild schools destroyed in Israeli strikes and shelling, let alone build new ones to overcome the problem of overcrowded classrooms.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says the Gaza Strip needs at least 15 new schools every year.

Tragedy

School teachers lament that the education system in the Gaza Strip has turned into a daily tragedy.

"The school is a tragedy," says teacher Samir Ashour.

"There is no place to escape the heat and in winter when it rains students and teachers can’t communicate because of the noise made by the falling rain."

"There is no proper class environment and that has a negative effect on the children," said Ashour.

The UN has repeatedly warned that the Gaza education system is collapsing under the yoke of the Israeli siege.

UNRWAR figures for last year showed increasing exam failure rates in Arabic and mathematics.

Niveen Farhat, a student, hopes for a favorable atmosphere to complete her studies.

"We want a school like all schools and not a school of caravans."

(IslamOnline.net and agencies)

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