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Gaza students begin school amid funding crisis, Israeli siege

Palestinian students sit inside a class, as the United Nations-run school classes resume amid financial crisis concerns, in Gaza City, the besieged Gaza Strip, on August 27, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Palestinian students, who have begun their new academic year at schools run by the United Nations, face uncertainty in education as the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency is grappling with a funding crisis.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) runs 288 schools in the besieged Gaza Strip to which a little under half of the young Gazan people go.

“We haven’t secured all the funding we need to ensure that our schools can remain operational until the end of this year, so we are working on securing the funds needed to keep schools in Gaza open,” Thomas White, Gaza director of UNRWA’s affairs, told Reuters during a visit to one of UN-run schools in Gaza City on Sunday when students began their new school term.

The UNRWA, which also funds 412 schools across other parts of the West Asia region alongside 140 medical clinics, is short of nearly $200 million needed to continue delivering the services until the end of 2023 and pay for staff salaries.

Some donor countries will hold discussions about funding for the UN agency next month.

“In the event we don’t get the funding, it is 298,000 students who might not be going to school. In Gaza, it is 1.2 million people who may not have access to health care,” White said.

In addition to the $200 million the UNRWA needs to support its operational budget in the wider region, the agency needs $75 million for food assistance in Gaza.

The territory has been under siege imposed by Israel since 2007.

The Israeli regime’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip for democratically electing the popular resistance movement Hamas has turned the enclave into the world's largest open-air prison and left many of its people destitute.

The occupying regime brought the entire enclave under land, aerial, and naval blockade in June 2007.

As a result of the siege, unemployment levels in Gaza are among the highest in the world.

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