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Friday, September 27, 2013

Gaza Christian schools, “back to normal”


GAZA – Five Christian schools (including three Catholic schools) would have closed their doors for the academic year if the Hamas government followed a law banning mixed schools in the Gaza Strip. For the time being, the school year started without a problem, except for the persistent apprehension of an impending closure that has taken hold of the entire Gazan population for two months. 

In April, Hamas (in power in Gaza since 2007) intended to implement a legislation codifying the separation of sexes in schools and prohibiting a man to teach girls, as a woman with boys older than 9 years, according to Islamic law.  However, only the Christian schools (as well as those held by the UN) have mixed classes with a student population 3,500.

This is good news for Father Faysal Hijazeen, director of the Latin Patriarchate schools in Israel and Palestine, who confirms that “back to school went well.” He added that “all the students and teachers of the Christian Schools in Gaza have gone back to classes without changing any of the practices and routines of the previous years.  Fr. Hijazeen hopes that “the situation will remain as it is.” In October Father Hijazen, Father Humam Khzouz, General Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, will meet with the Minister of Education in Gaza. To date, the Ministry of Education requested to increase the number of students and teachers, male and female.

Last April, Father Faysal said that “it will be a big problem to comply with e decision of Hamas to ban mixed schools in Gaza.  We do not have the space and we do not have the money to divide our schools. In addition to finding additional spaces, schools should in this case hire and pay more teachers and staff.”

Egypt closed its border with Gaza

With the influx of students, 983 in both Latin Patriarchate schools in Gaza for the school year 2013-2014, these young people share the fate and concern of the 1.7 million men, women and children living under an almost total blockade imposed by Israel and for two months by Egypt.

This restriction “is a horrible feeling of confinement for Gazans,” stated Fr. Hijazen, who compared this land to an “open-air prison.”  ” Egypt imposes restrictions on the Rafah crossing on the border with the Gaza Strip, open intermittently since the beginning of July. This passage is the only access to the Palestinian territory that is not controlled by Israel.  Relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated since the ouster President Mohamed Morsi.  The borders with Israel are almost impossible for Palestinians to cross, there are hundreds that cannot leave or return to Gaza. This continuously and seriously affects every day life -  socially, economically and in terms of education.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report on Monday, September 23, stating that “the restrictions imposed by Egypt on the border between that country and the Gaza Strip exacerbate an already precarious humanitarian situation  … ) including increasing fuel shortages and limited access to health services available in Egypt. ”The report adds that “on the other hand, the Israeli authorities have allowed only a very limited relaxation of the draconian restrictions on crossings into Israel. The already fragile humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has worsened,” the report stated.

Christophe Lafontaine

Source: http://en.lpj.org/2013/09/26/gaza-christian-schools-back-to-normal/

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