Palestine: Teachers stand by their students amid war and destruction

published 18 March 2024 updated 4 April 2024

The war in Gaza and repercussions felt in the West Bank have had a catastrophic impact on the education sector, leaving teachers and students facing great financial distress and with profound emotional scars. Along with their call for a cease fire and peace for their region, the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT) launched the "Teachers Empowerment Initiative" with support from Educational International (EI) and contributions from EI affiliates worldwide.

At the core of this initiative is a commitment to uplifting both educators and students, recognizing their pivotal roles in shaping the future of Palestine. The initiative aims to equip teachers with the skills and tools needed to support their students while seeking to foster resilience and the feeling of well-being. “If we bring a smile on the children’s faces, we have achieved our first goal,” says the General Secretary of GUPT, Saed Erziqat.

In February and March 2024, GUPT organised professional development sessions in selected schools in Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza, over 70 teachers from five schools participated in a training session facilitated with the support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

In the West Bank, an online training program was developed in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education.

Since the war broke out, education has come under relentless attack in Gaza and the West Bank. 625,000 children have been deprived of their right to education and 22,000 teachers have lost their jobs. More than 5,000 pupils have been killed and 9,000 injured, while about 400 teachers and education workers have lost their lives. In addition, 350 schools in the Gaza Strip were totally or partially destroyed.

The devastation of the war extends beyond Gaza, impacting students and educators in the West Bank as well. Students face disruptions to their learning environment, school closures, and unsafe journeys to school, leading to fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about their future and academic potential. Meanwhile, educators navigate financial and logistical challenges while supporting students through traumatic experiences and contending with their own emotional well-being.

Furthermore, educators have been deprived of wages for the last six months and find themselves grappling with financial insecurity. Wages have been withheld due to the interruption of the payment of tax revenues to the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israeli authorities.

The financial support collected by EI has enabled GUPT to develop training materials to support educators and students. Through innovative social-emotional activities integrated into the curriculum, teachers are nurturing resilience and well-being among students.

GUPT developed a training programme to equip 64 selected teachers from 10 different schools in the West Bank. The initiative, launched on 31 January 2024 has yielded remarkable results, with teachers reporting increased student engagement. Pre- and post-training assessments have demonstrated significant improvements in teachers' proficiency, signaling a tangible impact of the six weeks long professional development. Access to training materials and project evaluations is facilitated through QR codes, ensuring dissemination of knowledge and impact. In the light of these excellent results, GUPT is planning to extend the programme.

The power of solidarity

The success of the initiative underscores the power of solidarity with EI affiliates worldwide. Our Solidarity is the cornerstone of the education trade union movement and lays down the ground of its unity, within the national, regional and global community through our collective action!

Education International will continue to support colleagues and students in Palestine. Click here to find out how you can contribute.

Calls for peace

Education International continues to advocate for an end to the war between Israel and Hamas, the release of all hostages, and an end to indiscriminate violence. EI also reiterates its call for an immediate United Nations enforced and guaranteed ceasefire, the establishment of humanitarian corridors to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe and loss of civilians and genuine efforts towards sustainable peace.