By the Yanoun team,
The as-Sawiyah al-Lubban School, in Nablus is just one of many schools in Palestine. It is one school of many to which students with school bags on their backs walk, run and bike every day. Some students do some last minute studying with their eyes focused on the pages of their books while walking the last hundred meters along Road 60, the main artery of the central West Bank, which runs outside the gates of the school.
What makes the journey to and from school less than normal is, however, the constant threat of the Israeli military circulating the school grounds, patrolling the fields, or standing, seemingly idly, outside the school gates before the end of the school day.
To students at as-Sawiyah al-Lubban School, the very task of getting to school every day is connected with risks. This partially due to the schools proximity to Route 60, which is the main road connecting East Jerusalem and Ramallah. Both Palestinians and Israelis, including settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli settlements of Eli and Ma’ale Levona, use Route 60. For years, there was no pedestrian path for students to use along the heavily trafficked Road 60, forcing students to walk close to passing trucks, cars and military vehicles.
Military activity in and around as-Sawiyah al-Lubban school is also nothing new. The types of problems faced by the schoolchildren include acts of harassment or physical violence from soldiers on their commutes to and from school; military raids; usage of schools as interrogation and/or detention centers; and firing of teargas, stun-grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunition in and around school premises. As we speak to 16 year old Aisha, Rim and Maryam, who have studied in a science class at the school for the past two years, they say that they could not remember their first encounter with soldiers. “The soldiers have always been here”, says Rim.
Under international humanitarian law, applicable to the occupied Palestinian territories, schools are protected civilian objects. However, since the second half of October the sense of safety around the school has further deteriorated as military activity has steadily increased. In late October, the Israeli military detonated a sound grenade inside the school grounds before entering the area. The soldiers ordered all students to get out of the classrooms for inspection. The teachers, however, refused and the soldiers left soon after. In the following days, military vehicles on two instances slowed down by the junction close to the school and arrested two 17 year-old students who were walking home from school. One boy was released hours later, the other was held for three days.
“Of course we worry about the soldiers”, says 17 year old student Ahmed.“But they come here all the time. We are used to it.”
When we asked Aisha and Rim about what message they would like to send to people outside Palestine they asked us to focus on students in Palestine.“We ask for help in peaceful resistance” says Aisha. The girls explain that they really like their school and teachers and that even though they face military harassment, they are determined to finish their studies. “I want to go to university here in Palestine to benefit my country” says Aisha. They explain how they feel that completing their education was their way of working towards peace.
Ecumenical Accompaniers in the south Nablus area, Bethlehem and Hebron observe a stark reality vastly different from the legal and human rights provisions. With the general security situation in the south Nablus area, as in many parts of Palestine, worsening, the protection of schools, students and their right to education should be respected and prioritised. Schoolchildren should not pay the price of Israel’s occupation. However, this seems to be exactly the outcome for the students of as-Sawiyah al-Lubban School.
EAPPI is calling upon the Israeli authorities to fulfill their responsibility as outlined by international law and ensure safe access to education for the children across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Help us make a difference:
- Inform your representative in parliament & media agencies about the implications of Israel’s military policies on Palestinian schoolchildren’s right to education.
- Contact officials and call on them to demand that Palestinian schoolchildren have immediate, unhindered access to education.
- Write to your elected representative using our advocacy resources here.
*Please note that the names of the minors in this article have been changed.
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