Rana E. Manna
Last updated: 10 September, 2012

School season means hardship for Gaza’s parents

Less than one month after Ramadan and Eid al Fitr, Gazans are being faced with the school season. For parents who are struggling to provide for their children’s needs, it is a challenging time.

During the “back-to-school season” as the book and stationary shop owners like to call it, parents buy material such as stationeries, bags and new uniforms.

“This is a very important time of the year for us. I for one prepare and buy the school goods two months in advance in order to make sure I have the people’s needs and requirements covered,” Hafez Al Yazji, a book shop owner said.

Although primary education is free for the students in most of the schools in Gaza, families in the besieged costal strip still consider this season as a big financial burden.

“Despite the large quantity of stationaries taken, everybody seems to be determined on buying whatever they find cheap,” Mr Al Yazji added.

The Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education estimates that the vast majority of the 47,000 students attending the Gaza strip’s 881 schools this year are getting educated in an UN or governmental school, which provides free education for the primary and secondary levels.

Most of the Gazan refugees have been forced to buy new school needs and stationeries this year since the UNRWA didn’t distribute school necessities as it has usually done.

“This time of the year is considered to be the hardest financially since my husband is a laborer who doesn’t have a stable job. We have a total of 5 children that are in schools. Clearly, all of them are in need of bags, stationaries, and uniforms which can reach up to 300 NIS per child; we just cannot afford all that,” said Arwa Gassan, a housewife.

Despite the obstacles and hard financial pressures that Gaza’s population are experiencing, they are known for making sure that their children completes their education. According to the Ministry of Education, illiteracy in the strip is less than 10%, and most of those who can’t read and write are above the age of 50.

Arwa Gassan tightens the school uniform of her older daughter to fit her younger one, saying that they just keep on getting taller and are outgrowing their clothes. She also borrows some books that are required for her children’s classes and lends her books to the neighbors’ children.

Arwa’s daughter, Safai, says that she is fine with wearing her sister’s clothes after her mother fixes them.

“But she promised to buy me a new pair of shoes rather than the ones I’ve been wearing for the second year in a row. They aren’t even comfortable anymore making my feet swell up every single day.”