World Bulletin/News Desk
Some 500,000 children returned on Sunday to school in the Gaza Strip, where many will be given psychological counselling before regular studies begin after a devastating 50-day war between Palestinian fighters and Israel.
The opening of the school year had been delayed for three weeks because of damage to more than 250 schools and the use of about 90 U.N. educational facilities as shelters for tens of thousands of residents displaced by fighting, the United Nations and local authorities said.
"The top priority now is making sure that after a period of psychosocial support, including the use of theatre for development techniques, our students can return to their regular curricula," said Pierre Krähenbühl, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs more than 200 Gaza schools.
He said UNRWA has employed over 200 counsellors who would engage with the approximately 240,000 students in its schools, with a transition to standard studies scheduled in a week.
A coalition of international and local non-government agencies and the Palestinian Education Ministry will also help provide psychosocial support to another quarter-million students in Gaza's public schools.
At a girls' school in Shejaia, a Gaza neighbourhood where hundreds of houses were damaged or destroyed and 72 people died in fierce fighting, a sign bearing the name of a student killed in the conflict was placed symbolically on an empty chair.
It read: "Martyr Ghalya Al-Helu, ninth grade,"
The head teacher, addressing the morning assembly in the bullet and shrapnel-scarred school, told the students that her deputy also had been killed.
On Thursday, a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch group accused Israel of committing war crimes by attacking three UNRWA-run schools, killing 45 Palestinians, including 17 children, in or near those facilities.
Around 9,600 students would not be able to start the new academic year in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, a United Nations agency has said.
This is particularly so because Palestinian families – whose homes were destroyed during Israel's latest war on the Gaza Strip – have come to seek refuge at three Gaza schools and refuse to leave those schools, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) added late on Saturday.
UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna told Anadolu Agency that the three schools are located in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, noting that the schools would not welcome their students for the new academic year, which will start on Sunday, because displaced Gazans are refusing to leave.
He added that this means that the 9,600 students enrolled in these three schools would not be able to start their academic year on Sunday.
The 51-day offensive had come to an end on August 26 by a cease-fire deal that was signed by the Palestinians and Israel in Cairo.
The war left 2,156 Gazans dead and more than 11,000 others injured.
Last Mod: 14 Eylül 2014, 17:29