Education under threat as Al Khan Al Ahmar School set to be destroyed in the West Bank
July 4 – More than 170 children in the Khan Al Ahmar community in the West Bank are expecting to see their school demolished imminently after bulldozers moved into the village today, sparking protests in which more than 30 people were reportedly injured.
The demolition by the Israeli authorities follows the Israeli High Court of Justice’s 24 May decision to overturn the injunction protecting the community. This marked an end to many years of legal efforts, and left no legal options to protect local Bedouin residents from having their community demolished, including their school.
Forty-four schools in the West Bank are now at risk of demolition, with Save the Children calling for immediate commitments to protect schools and the right to learn for thousands of children across the West Bank.
Thousands more Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation are also at risk of losing their right to learn, as well as their homes, further threatening children’s ability to access education in the Palestinian Territory.
Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, warned the demolitions could have a grave psychological impact on children.
“The impact these demolitions have on the wellbeing of children, and their ability to learn and feel safe, cannot be understated and must not be accepted,” Moorehead said.
“This community has already suffered so much and their only hope now is to see the highest level political intervention from the international community.”
In the first seven months of 2018, four schools have been demolished. This is already more than the total number of demolitions that took place in 2017, indicating a sharp increase in the demolition of educational facilities. On top of this, in many locations children and teachers face daily violence, injuries, humiliation or even arrests on their way to school or during the school day.
Nabil*, 15, has been attending the Al Khan Al Ahmar school for eight years.
“All my siblings went to this school and all the community helped build the school, so we had many memories here. This demolition will ruin our future,” Nabil said.
Like many others, Nabil worries about how he will continue his education without a nearby school and faced with forced relocation.
"School will be far away because we will be living on the mountain, and we will have to walk really far to get there. There is no one there, no friends, nobody and it will be hard on us," Nabil said.
The principal of Al Khan Al Ahmar school, Haleema a- Zahuyqa, said her students – some as young as six years old – would lose their basic rights to a safe home, protection and education.
"The children are under pressure – particularly emotional pressure. They are not sleeping, they are tense, and they have headaches and are scared,” Ali said.
Moorehead said the demolition was a breach of international law and internationally recognised provisions to protect schools in conflict areas.
“Schools must be safe havens where children are able to learn and shape their future,” Moorehead said.
She also warned this demolition could be a watershed case that would open the door for more to follow.
“A line must be drawn to ensure that no further demolitions occur and that even more children do not see their education in jeopardy,” Moorehead said.
“The Israeli government must make every effort to allow for the unhindered passage of students and school staff through checkpoints on their way to and from schools, and to ensure that schools are recognised as protected, safe places for children.
“We also urge the Israeli government to take measures to protect children’s right to education and sign up to the Safe Schools Declaration.
“Education is a human right that no child should be denied.”
*Name changed for protection reasons
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*****Note to editors*****
In the first quarter of 2018 alone, there were 78 incidents of education-related violence across the West Bank affecting 26,569 children; including 17 cases of tear gas firing in/around schools, affecting 5,423 students.
In 2016 there were 3 partial demolitions of classrooms in schools in the West Bank. In one of the schools, Abu Nuwwar, the classrooms were demolished twice. In 2017 three schools were demolished, and in 2018 four schools were demolished (including Al Khan Al Ahmar) to date. All of these schools were in the West Bank.
Israeli Authorities argue that the buildings in the community of Al Khan Al Ahmar were illegally constructed. However, figures show that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in Area C of the West Bank. Available figures of approved development permits across the West Bank show that between January and June 2016, only 0.5 per cent of the 428 requests were approved. In 2015, only seven out of 385 requests were approved, i.e. 1.81 per cent; and there were nine approved out of 440 requests, or 2.04 per cent, in 2014.
Since 2009, the EU and its Member States have provided more than 300,000 Euros of assistance to the Al Khan Al Ahmar community, including contributions to the school.
Save the Children has been active in the area for more than 50 years, focussing on quality education, protection for children, greater access to health care and employment opportunities for youth. After a school is demolished, Save the Children also provides school materials and psychosocial support to children affected.
The Safe Schools Declaration is a political document, which provides countries with the opportunity to express political support for the protection of students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of armed conflict. The Declaration contains a number of commitments aimed at strengthening the prevention of, and response to, attacks on education during armed conflict. This includes improving reporting of attacks on schools; collecting reliable data on attacks and military use of schools and universities; providing assistance to victims of attacks; investigating allegations of violations of national and international law and prosecuting perpetrators where appropriate; and developing and promoting 'conflict sensitive' approaches to education.
According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are currently 44 schools that have been issued demolition orders.