News ID: 199382
Published: 0309 GMT August 26, 2017

Palestinian children learn in tent after school demolished

Palestinian children learn in tent after school demolished

Early in the morning, dozens of students assembled in columns outside the Jubbet adh-Dibh primary school. Encouraged by their teachers, they launched into a rendition of the Palestinian national anthem, Fidai.

It appeared to be a typical Palestinian scene, a morning ritual repeated outside thousands of school buildings across the occupied West Bank before students begin classes, Aljazeera wrote.

But when the students of Jubbet adh-Dibh finished singing the anthem, they had no classrooms to go to. There was only a single tent filled with wooden chairs and book-ended by two whiteboards.

The brand new school's six classrooms, built in mid-August to host 80 students, had been dismantled and removed by the Israeli military the night before the first day of the school year. Two days later, all that remained were the concrete bases where the classrooms had stood, along with a row of latrines.

Ibtissam Shaibat, an Arabic and maths teacher at the Bethlehem directorate of education, said, "We welcomed the new academic semester with a dismantled school.

"On the first day of school, I arrived at around 7:30 a.m. It was a horrible feeling when I saw that the school was not here."

Regardless, Shaibat and a handful of teachers from the Bethlehem directorate have been coming to lead classes for the children who show up at the site, until another solution is found. The newly installed tent serves as a makeshift classroom, although due to the lack of space, one class takes place outside, under the blazing sun.

"Not all of the students are here today," Shaibat said. "The rest have gone to their previous schools to continue their education. Their parents believed that this is not the right environment now to attend school here. It's really hot, so they prefer to deal again with a hard situation of attending a school far away than to stay here without facilities."

The Palestinian village of Jubbet adh-Dibh lies in a dramatic setting beneath Jabal al-Fureidis, a flat-topped mountain five kilometers southeast of Bethlehem, which is home to the Herodium Palace historical site.

Around 160 people live there, and while the village has a kindergarten, the nearest primary schools are located in the surrounding towns and villages, meaning that children have to either walk long distances or take a bus to get to school.

Fadiya al-Wahsh, head of the women's foundation in Jubbet adh-Dibh, decided to enroll her son, Abdelrahman, in the third grade at the new school.

"The whole community wanted this school because it was closer to the village," she said.

"It takes around seven minutes to walk here. To get to the school my son attended last year, he had to take a bus or walk for a kilometer and a half. He has asthma and was complaining that it was too far to travel and that the school was really crowded. It was really bad for his health.

"Before this school, a huge number of students crowded into the other schools," Wahsh added.

"Here, there is much more space for students — 10-15 students per class — and this will give them a better opportunity to get an education. In the other school, there are 50 students per class."

The village is located in Area C of the occupied West Bank, an administrative designation dating back to the Oslo Accords, which affords Israeli authorities full civil and security control.

While the Palestinian Authority is responsible for providing education and healthcare services to the Palestinian population in Area C, Israel has retained control over land allocation, planning, construction and infrastructure in this area, which comprises around 60 percent of the occupied West Bank. It is also home to all the Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

Local and international rights groups have argued that Israeli military authorities have used their control over land planning in Area C to restrict Palestinian construction and development, by denying applications for building permits while allowing Jewish-only settlements to expand.

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