Qatar’s efforts to rebuild Gaza schools damaged during Israel’s three-week onslaught have been praised during a high-level debate on ‘education during crises’ at United Nations headquarters.
Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, president of the UN General Assembly, lauded the efforts of H H Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned in helping Palestinian schoolchildren.
“As you may know, she has been working tirelessly to restore as quickly as possible the scores of UN-sponsored schools that were damaged during the horrific invasion of the Palestinian territory of Gaza two months ago,” said D’Escoto. “She has made the case and the government of Qatar has been instrumental in raising the funds to rebuild the secure, nurturing learning environment that children and young people so desperately need.”
The midtown Manhattan meet of statesmen and educators yesterday was co-sponsored by Qatar, Nicaragua, Norway and other nations to ensure children have access to school even during wars and natural disasters.
The UN estimates that 75 million are not enrolled in school, more than half of them living in areas torn apart by conflict like Gaza, which Israel pounded for 22 days through December and January in response to militant rocket attacks.
Sheikha Mozah said she would commit all her “power and efforts” to helping Palestinian schoolchildren and descried the Al Fakhoora campaign, which saw Qatari students show “solidarity towards their counterparts in Gaza against the latest military invasion”.
“Can we, as an international community, understand what it means to have students deliberately denied their basic right to education by setting up check points preventing them from reaching their schools and universities?” she asked.
“So we realise the danger behind bombing educational institutions bearing the UN flag, the symbol of righteousness and legitimacy?” added Sheikha Mozah, a special envoy on education for the UN’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
Sheikha Mozah called for bolstering of international efforts to safeguard the right to education and to use sanctions and other forms of punishment against those responsible for damaging schools. “Because we believe in the value of life and appreciate the culture of peace, we shall not let our children give into despair or frustration,” she said. “That is why we must make sure that through accountability to combat anyone who has no respect for life and humankind and anyone who does not treasure the right to education.”
During the invasion of Gaza, Sheikha Mozah wrote to UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to express her “profound condemnation of and concern over the destruction of educational institutions and the targeting of students and teachers”.
She was writing in response to Israeli shelling near Al Fakhoora school, in the Jabaliya refugee camp north of Gaza City on January 6, while an estimated 280 families sheltered inside.
During the debate, delegates also discussed the implications of wars and natural disasters on school-age children, with the next decade expected to herald a shortfall of 18 million primary school teachers – mostly in war-torn and disaster-struck regions.
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