Dubai Cares announced today the “Rebuild Palestine. Start with Education” initiative part of which includes a program aimed at supporting access to education and mitigating the psycho-social effects of armed conflict on the student population in Gaza, Palestine. The AED 11 million (USD 3 million) program has been launched to alleviate the devastating effects of this summer’s seven-week military conflict on the education sector in Gaza by providing infrastructure and psycho-social support services to children.
Emphasizing the urgency in dealing with the struggling educational infrastructure in Gaza, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares said: “We need to wake up to the situation in Gaza and prepare for the long-term impact of the current uncertain and volatile situation on its children. Palestine’s youngest citizens have suffered severe physical and psychological trauma over the course of the military conflict and the large-scale destruction of the educational infrastructure is going to further impair their futures. The time has come for the international community to mobilize resources, and ensure that schools have the capacity and the right capabilities to offer them quality education, and that is why we have launched ‘Rebuild Palestine. Start with Education’.
“Through this program, which concentrates on bolstering educational infrastructure while supporting the psycho-social rehabilitation of the children, we aim to ensure that the children in Gaza have access to quality education. This means building up sound infrastructure and developing the relevant curricula as well as investing in teachers so that they can assist students dealing with trauma to develop coping mechanisms, thus successfully settling them back into their educational routines.”
The continuous blockade that accompanied the conflict crippled Gaza’s struggling educational sector. The Dubai Cares program, in partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), will work towards countering the effects of the conflict and strengthening the educational sector in Gaza. As part of the program, 175,809 children enrolled in 151 UNRWA schools will receive weekly arts and sports classes led by specialized teachers. These classes will be structured around psycho-social counseling utilizing arts and sports, and will also include training to guide teachers during these classes. In addition, 1,620 students in UNRWA schools will receive psycho-social support to develop their coping mechanisms and ease their distress. Individual support plans will be developed between the child and a counselor to identify specific issues and vulnerabilities and then formulate a response and allocate resources. The program will also provide 1,500 students access to primary and lower secondary education through the construction of a 20-classroom school which includes furniture and water and sanitation facilities.
“Palestine already had significant systemic issues affecting the quality of education. The additional limits on finances, the growing student population, and the ongoing political instability, has led to the educational process in the country to take a serious pounding. However, Palestinian children need the security of education in order to grow their skill set and rise above the challenges they face today. As a global philanthropic organization, we are endeavoring to keep education on the agenda as Palestine recovers from the conflict,” concluded Al Gurg.
The military operations that took place in the Gaza Strip between July and August 2014 led to a death toll of 2,150 people and caused an unprecedented scale of damage to vital civilian infrastructure. An estimated 100,000 people had their homes destroyed, made uninhabitable or severely damaged. The extreme levels of violence have caused deep levels of fear amongst the population, particularly children. At present, a six year old child in Gaza has already been exposed to three military interventions. The constant threat of attack in addition to actual instances of violence has resulted in a depletion of coping mechanism and an increased inclination to fear and violence.
Over the past seven years, Dubai Cares, with the support of the UAE community, has been facilitating change and development by providing children access to quality primary education in developing countries around the globe. Dubai Cares is now reaching more than 10 million children in 35 developing countries. Through its programs so far, the organization built and renovated over 1,500 classrooms, provided more than 1,300 water wells and potable water sources and constructed over 3,400 latrines in schools, provided nutritious food every day to more than 504,000 children in schools, trained over 38,000 teachers, kept more than 2.7 million children free from intestinal worms through its school-based de-worming activities; distributed over 2.1 million books written in local languages and established over 6,750 Parent-Teacher Associations.