Gaza students miss secondary school exams amid ongoing Israeli genocide

Jun 26, 2024
Damage to an UNRWA sheltering school in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, on June 25, 2024, following an overnight Israeli bombardment. (Photo: Omar AL-QATTAA /AFP)

Ramallah, June 26, 2024—Around 39,000 secondary school students in the Gaza Strip are not able to sit for their final exams this year due to the ongoing Israeli military offensive, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Secondary school final exams, known as tawjihi, are required to successfully complete high school degrees in Palestine and determine a student’s options for post-secondary education. Around 800,000 students have been deprived of their right to education in Gaza since October, according to the Governmental Media Office. 

“Deliberately depriving Palestinian children of their education puts Israeli authorities in direct violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at Defense for Children International - Palestine. “Safe and quality education, especially the ability to complete the tawjihi exams, sets the course for a child’s future. 39,000 Palestinian students who should have been graduating this year are instead facing an unknown future as they try to survive Israel’s campaign of genocide.”

Around 50,000 Palestinian students headed to the examination halls in the occupied West Bank and abroad, excluding the 39,000 students from Gaza, while the exams have been administered in Egypt and other countries worldwide, enabling displaced students from Gaza to participate. 1,320 Gaza students are scheduled to take the tawjihi exams in 29 Arab countries, including 1,090 who are present in Egypt, according to the Ministry of Education.

85 percent of educational facilities in the Gaza Strip are non-operational due to direct and deliberate targeting by Israeli forces, creating a significant challenge for resuming the educational process once this genocide ends, according to the Governmental Media Office. 

Palestinian students are taking their secondary school exams in one of Palestine’s embassies abroad on June 22. (Photo: Ministry of Education)

Over eight months into the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, Israeli forces have killed around 47,600 Palestinians in Gaza, including more than 15,820 children, and over 85,950 Palestinians are injured, including 34,000 children, according to the Governmental Media Office. 

At least 17,000 children have lost at least one parent in the genocide, with around 500 losing both parents. An estimated 3,600 Palestinian children are still buried under the rubble of damaged and destroyed buildings, according to the Governmental Media Office. 

Many others are missing and forcibly disappeared, with an unknown number detained and transferred out of Gaza, leaving their families unaware of their whereabouts. Over two million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced from their homes and over 60 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed, according to the Governmental Media Office..

Schools operated by UNRWA in Gaza are serving as shelter centers for displaced Palestinian civilians. Israel’s massive military offensive against Gaza that has amounted to a genocidal campaign has created unprecedented conditions of inhabitability. 

The deliberate targeting of school shelters in Gaza constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law, as enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. This Convention prohibits attacks on civilian objects, including schools used to shelter civilians during armed conflict. Such actions also contravene the principle of distinction, which requires parties to a conflict to distinguish between civilian and military targets. Moreover, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considers the intentional targeting of civilians or civilian objects as war crimes, punishable under international law. 

DCIP and other human rights organizations have extensively documented Israeli forces’ targeting of schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, as well as the killing and maiming of children in and around such infrastructure.

Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991. The convention grants basic rights to health and education to every child regardless of nationality or ethnicity. 

Article 28(1)(e) of the CRC specifically requires state parties to take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates, and Article 38(4) obliges signatories to protect the civilian population in accordance with international humanitarian law and take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued several orders related to the genocide committed by Israel in Gaza in a case brought by South Africa. The most recent order was issued on May 24, 2024, and emphasized the need for Israel to take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II and Article III of the Genocide Convention.

News | Right to a Childhood
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