Every child has the right to go to school. Yet in the occupied Palestinian territory - even before the COVID-19 pandemic - claiming that right is never easy. And the negative effects of the many barriers to learning make themselves felt in a number of ways.
Access to education in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is far from free and equitable. The effects of military occupation serve to severely restrict access to schools and youth centres. And the impact of this disruption is now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the West Bank education is compulsory for children until the age of 15. Yet a network of military checkpoints impede the movement of all Palestinians - including children - meaning that otherwise short journeys can take hours and result in pupils missing classes or after-school activities.
The effects of these movement restrictions are felt on a daily basis by the 2.3 million children who call the West Bank home. Children like Amal - who walks us through her typical journey to school in this video.
UN figures show that there are 21 checkpoints across the occupied Palestinian territory where children face delays and harassment on their way to and from school. And these movement restrictions take a heavy social and emotional toll. Research from UNICEF states that some 325,000 children in the West Bank are at significant risk of developing serious mental health issues - in particular an absence of any hope of an improved future.
Action to uphold the safety and wellbeing of these children is urgently needed. Which is why War Child has entered into partnership with World Vision to increase access to safe learning spaces for thousands of children across the West Bank through the SAFE project.
The 18-month project will see teachers and counsellors trained to provide social and emotional support to children experiencing stress - and refer children to specialist support services. Physical school infrastructure will be also refurbished, including improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The two organisations will work in close cooperation with caregivers, communities and national education authorities to uphold the structures that serve to keep children safe - and ensure that the project’s impact can be felt in the long term.
SAFE is funded by the European Union and is designed to help address these threats. Because every child has the right to learn free from fear and trauma.