UNRWA warns schools may close down in Gaza due to lack of funds
"If we do not get funding, 298,000 students may not be able to go to their schools," Thomas White, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), warned during his visit to a local school in Gaza.
"We have not received all the funding we need to ensure that our schools can continue to operate until the end of this year, so we are working to secure the necessary financial allocations to keep schools in Gaza open," he added.
The UN official explained that his organisation needs about US$200 million to pay employees' salaries and continue services until the end of 2023.
White added that some donor countries will discuss funding UNRWA in September.
UNRWA runs 288 schools in the Palestinian territories, out of 700 schools it funds in the Middle East region, along with 140 medical clinics.
Students in Gaza started a new semester on Saturday, August 26, under uncertainty about whether they could complete the school year without interruption due to the funding crisis.
Kamal Mahdy, a Gaza-based student, expressed his concerns about losing his new school year as soon as his teacher informed him and his classmate of the financial crisis.
"For two years, we were forced to stay at our homes because of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in our territory, which negatively affected our education," he said.
"Even though when we returned to our schools," the 14-year-old student said, "we struggled a lot to understand our face-to-face lessons. We do not want to witness such a horrible experience once again."
Afnan Ali, a Gaza-based mother of three students, also fears losing the new school year if the UNRWA stops its education operations in Gaza.
"We barely can help our children in their homework tasks as we have to use technology to keep pace with technological educational development," she complained.
The local mother accused the international community of ending the UNRWA operations based on political agendas to end the cause of the Palestinian refugees completely.
It is estimated that around two-thirds of Gaza's population of 2.3 million are refugees, the descendants of those who fled or were forced to flee their original towns and villages during the 1948 war that saw the forceful creation of the State of Israel.
Almost half of Gaza's students learn in UNRWA schools, about 300,000 students receive their education in government-run schools, and others learn in privately owned schools.