War in Gaza Derails Students Hopes for Education
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War in Gaza Derails Students Hopes for Education

War in Gaza Derails Students Hopes for Education

Teenagers in the Gaza Strip were gearing up for their final exams this month, a significant milestone towards university and their future careers. However, the ongoing war in the Palestinian territory has shattered those dreams. Gaza’s education ministry reports that 85 percent of educational institutions are non-operational due to the conflict.

“I was eagerly awaiting the exams, but the war has dashed that hope and destroyed my happiness,” said Baraa al-Farra, an 18-year-old student displaced from Khan Younis in southern Gaza. “Initially, we were hopeful that the war would end in time for us to catch up,” he added. But now, “we have no idea how long it will last or how many years it will take away from our education.”

The war in Gaza, now in its ninth month, began with an unprecedented attack by Hamas on southern Israel on October 7, resulting in 1,194 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures. In response, Israel’s offensive has claimed at least 37,598 lives, also mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

A recent report by the Education Cluster, a UN-backed organization, stated that over 75 percent of Gaza’s schools require full reconstruction or significant repairs to reopen. Many schools have been converted into shelters for displaced persons or have suffered damage from the bombardments.

‘Books, Not Bombs’

Liliane Nihad, an 18-year-old who fled to Khan Younis from Gaza City, expressed her frustration: “We’ve been waiting 12 years to take these exams, to pass, to be happy, and to go to university… but this war has taken all that away from us.” Nihad, who had hoped to study English and pursue a doctorate, said, “All of that has now vanished.”

In protest, dozens of students and teachers gathered in Gaza City’s Al-Rimal neighborhood on Saturday, chanting, “We demand our right to take high school exams” and “We want books, not bombs,” while empty chairs symbolized the students who had lost their lives in the conflict.

Failed mediation efforts have prolonged the fighting, leaving Gaza’s youth uncertain about their future. Farra expressed a desire to leave the territory to fulfill his ambitions. “I hope the crossing will open so I can travel, continue my education, and not waste my years. I am young and want to achieve my goals.” For now, he faces the harsh reality of life under siege: “I wish I could be staying up late studying instead of standing in line for scarce supplies of sweet and salty water.”

‘Psychologically Exhausted’

Students in the Israeli-occupied West Bank will take their exams, as will those Gazans who managed to flee to neighboring Egypt. Nevertheless, the war has disrupted their lives as well. “We are psychologically exhausted and not well prepared,” said Muhammad Osama, a student from Rafah in southern Gaza, after completing his religious studies exam in Cairo.

In the West Bank, violence has escalated since the Gaza war began. According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, 20 high school students are among the hundreds of Palestinians killed there. Wafa reported that 89,000 students from Gaza and the West Bank were expected to take high school exams this year. However, in Gaza, exams will not take place.

The UN, citing the Palestinian ministry of education, reported that about 39,000 high school students in Gaza are unable to sit for their tests. Sulaf Mousa, an 18-year-old from Al-Shati Camp west of Gaza City, which was hit by a deadly air strike on Saturday, had hoped to study medicine and become a doctor. “Now, we just hope to survive the war and not lose more than we already have,” Mousa said.

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