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UN experts deeply concerned over 'scholasticide’ in Gaza

UN experts deeply concerned over 'scholasticide’ in Gaza

International Desk

UN experts on Thursday expressed grave concern over the pattern of attacks on schools, universities, teachers, and students in the Gaza Strip that signal a systemic destruction of the Palestinian education system.

“With more than 80% of schools in Gaza damaged or destroyed, it may be reasonable to ask if there is an intentional effort to comprehensively destroy the Palestinian education system, an action known as ‘scholasticide’,” the experts said.

The term refers to the systemic obliteration of an education system through the arrest, detention or killing of teachers, students and staff, and the destruction of educational infrastructure, reads a press statement issued in Geneva.

After six months of Israeli military assault, more than 5,479 students, 261 teachers and 95 university professors have been killed in Gaza, and over 7,819 students and 756 teachers have been injured – with the numbers growing each day.

At least 60% of educational facilities, including 13 public libraries, have been damaged or destroyed and at least 625,000 students have lost access to education. Another 195 heritage sites, 227 mosques and three churches have also been damaged or destroyed, including the Central Archives of Gaza – which contains records of 150 years of history.

Israa University, the last remaining university in Gaza was demolished by the Israeli military on 17 January. Without safe schools, women and girls face additional risks including gender-based violence. More than a million Palestinian children in Gaza are now in need of mental health and psychosocial support, and will suffer the trauma of the ongoing war throughout their lives, the statement said.

“The persistent, callous attacks on educational infrastructure in Gaza have a devastating long-term impact on the fundamental rights of people to learn and freely express themselves, depriving yet another generation of Palestinians of their future,” the experts said.

“When schools are destroyed, so too are hopes and dreams.”

“[Furthermore] Students with international scholarships are being prevented from attending universities abroad,” they added.

Even UN schools sheltering forcibly displaced civilians are being bombed, including in Israeli military-designated “safe zones. These attacks are not isolated incidents. They present a systematic pattern of violence aimed at dismantling the very foundation of Palestinian society,” the experts said.

The experts called on all parties to respect international humanitarian laws, international human rights laws, and to protect educational institutions, teachers, and students.

“We remind Israel, in particular, of its obligations to comply with the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice on 26 January,” they said.

The experts said they were equally appalled by the annihilation of the cultural sector in Gaza, through the destruction of libraries and cultural heritage sites. “The foundations of Palestinian society are being reduced to rubble, and their history is being erased.”

"Attacks on education cannot be tolerated. The international community must send a clear message that those who target schools and universities will be held responsible," the experts said, adding that accountability for these violations includes an obligation to finance and rebuild the education system.

"We owe it to the children of Gaza to uphold their right to education and pave the way for a more peaceful and just future."

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