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UN Experts Deeply Concerned Over 'scholasticide’ In Gaza

GENEVA (18 April 2024)

UN experts* today expressed grave concern over the pattern of attacks on schools, universities, teachers, and students in the Gaza Strip, raising serious alarm over the systemic destruction of the Palestinian education system.

“With more than 80% of schools in Gaza damaged or destroyed, it may be reasonable to ask if there is an intentional effort to comprehensively destroy the Palestinian education system, an action known as ‘scholasticide’,” the experts said.

The term refers to the systemic obliteration of education through the arrest, detention or killing of teachers, students and staff, and the destruction of educational infrastructure.

After six months of military assault, more than 5,479 students, 261 teachers and 95 university professors have been killed in Gaza, and over 7,819 students and 756 teachers have been injured – with numbers growing each day. At least 60 per cent of educational facilities, including 13 public libraries, have been damaged or destroyed and at least 625,000 students have no access to education. Another 195 heritage sites, 227 mosques and three churches have also been damaged or destroyed, including the Central Archives of Gaza, containing 150 years of history. Israa University, the last remaining university in Gaza was demolished by the Israeli military on 17 January 2024. Without safe schools, women and girls face additional risks, including gender-based violence. More than 1 million Palestinian children in Gaza are now in need of mental health and psychosocial support and will suffer the trauma of this war throughout their lives.

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“The persistent, callous attacks on educational infrastructure in Gaza have a devastating long-term impact on the fundamental rights of people to learn and freely express themselves, depriving yet another generation of Palestinians of their future,” the experts said. “Students with international scholarships are being prevented from attending university abroad,” they added.

“When schools are destroyed, so too are hopes and dreams.”

Even UN schools sheltering forcibly displaced civilians are being bombed, including in Israeli military-designated “safe zones.”

“These attacks are not isolated incidents. They present a systematic pattern of violence aimed at dismantling the very foundation of Palestinian society,” the experts said.

The experts called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to protect educational institutions, teachers, and students. “We remind Israel in particular of its obligations to comply with the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice on 26 January,” they said.

The experts said they were equally appalled by the annihilation of the cultural sector in Gaza, through the destruction of libraries and cultural heritage sites. “The foundations of Palestinian society are being reduced to rubble, and their history is being erased.”

"Attacks on education cannot be tolerated. The international community must send a clear message that those who target schools and universities will be held responsible," the experts said, adding that accountability for these violations includes an obligation to finance and rebuild the education system.

"We owe it to the children of Gaza to uphold their right to education and pave the way for a more peaceful and just future."

The experts: Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Cecilia M. Bailliet, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Attiya Waris, Independent Expert on foreign debt, other international financial obligations and human rights; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Ashwini K.P. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi (Vice-Chair), Working group on discrimination against women and girls; Carlos Salazar Couto (Chair-Rapporteur), Sorcha MacLeod, Jovana Jezdimirovic Ranito, Chris M. A. Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel, Working Group on the use of mercenaries; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Beatriz Miranda-Galarza, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and their family members; David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Surya Deva, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan

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