OPT: When being tiny is lucky

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Monica Awad

Ever since the beginning of the school year in September 2004, Issa no longer leads a normal life.

Issa, an 11-year old boy from Izzariyeh, a village east of Jerusalem, has to wake up earlier than usual to reach his school. Unlike other kids in his area, he has to bypass the so-called barrier that divides the West Bank from Israel proper - to get to the New Generation Elementary School.

Since the arrival of the barrier in Jerusalem, Issa's house now faces the grey wall - placing it within the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem area and his school within the Palestinian area. Getting to school, now mean a journey of up to one hour via a bypass road.

Luckily for Issa, construction workers left a 30 cm or so space between the nine- meter high barrier. Only small and tiny children and pets can pass through the available opening.

"Since they built this wall, I have been passing through this tiny hole in order to reach my school on time" said Issa, pointing at the tiny opening between the cement blocks.

The arrival of the 670km barrier in East of Jerusalem means that the three villages of Jerusalem, - Izariyyeh, Abu Dis and Sawahreh - will be encircles, affecting more than 30,000 people. (For more information on the West Bank barrier see the side panel box to the right).

Issa with dismay in his voice said: "I don't want to grow up. I want to stay tiny because I want to continue to be able to pass through this hole in trying to reach my school on time."

Issa has five brothers and four sisters. He is in Fifth Grade and his favourite subject is English. "I like English language the most because I want to be able to talk to other children of the world and tell them about the wall," said Issa.

Issa excitedly talks about his dreams: "When I grow up, I want to go to Tripoli in Syria because my ancestors are from there."

As he approaches the tiny opening between the cement blocks of the barrier, Issa peaked through to see if the area was clear. He instantly instructed his cousins and younger sister to pass through. Because the opening is not big enough for Issa to pass through with his back pack, he pushed his back pack through before squeezing himself through.

In order to ensure that school children with access problems continue learning, UNICEF, supported the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, supplies remedial education worksheets in four subject areas. This means that children whose education is disrupted due to the barrier, closures or other reasons can continue their studies.

In 2003/2004, UNICEF supported the replication of the project in five of the most affected districts, namely Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Rafah and Tulkarem. The catch-up education programme covered 150,000 children whose schooling had been interrupted.

Financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) made this programme possible.