Gaza schools shut for 500,000 pupils, Israeli bombing continues
A displaced Palestinian child sleeps on the floor of a UN school in Gaza City, August 23, 2014 (File/AFP)
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Half a million schoolchildren in the Gaza Strip will be unable to start the fall semester this week as the coastal enclave reels from the effects of an ongoing Israeli assault that has damaged at least 277 schools so far.
Although schools were scheduled to open on Saturday, nearly one-third are still being used shelters for some of the 485,000 Gazans displaced by Israeli bombardment, including 100,000 who have been left homeless.
Palestinian Minister of Education Khawla al-Shakhshir told Ma'an on Friday that the although the new school year will begin on Sunday for 700,000 students in the West Bank, it has been "delayed until further notice" in Gaza.
The Deputy Minister of Education in Gaza Ziad Thabet told a Ma'an reporter that re-opening schools in Gaza depends on "evacuating schools that are used as shelters, providing other places for displaced families and preparing schools to receive students."
Thabet said that of the 141 government schools damaged in the assault, 22 of them were severely damaged while other schools merely required clean-up.
Thabet added that preparing schools to receive students would "technically need two weeks," but that the schedule was dependent on an end to the Israeli bombardment, which had killed more than 70 and injured hundreds in the previous four days alone.
He said that the ministry had coordinated with several local and international institutions to help repair and organize schools and provide the school year necessities, adding that the schools were also preparing to provide extensive psychological support programs for students.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated on Thursday that 373,000 children will need direct and specialized psychological counseling after the end of the assault, while all students would require some form of psychological assistance.
Of the more than 3,000 children who have been injured in the assault, meanwhile, UNOCHA said that around 1,000 would suffer from a life-long disability, in addition to the estimated 1,500 who had been orphaned.
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