Israel Delaying Delivery of 300,000 Textbooks to Gaza Schools, Palestinians Claim

The Palestinian Education Ministry says books in math and science are still awaiting Israeli approval, meaning half a million students in the Gaza Strip will start the school year without them.

Veiled teacher gives a math lesson in a classroom on the first day of school, at a UN-run school in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip August 28, 2016.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafaת Reuters

The Palestinian school year began on Sunday, but Israel has yet to deliver thousands of textbooks for over half a million students to Gaza Strip schools, the Palestinian Education Ministry said on Saturday.

An Israeli official in the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said the books must first be examined and approved by Israel, before being allowed into the Gaza Strip.

Some 1.2 million Palestinian students started their studies on Sunday. About 650,000 of them are in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Education Ministry said.

According to the ministry’s figures, 65 percent of the Gaza Strip’s students are enrolled in 245 UNRWA schools. In the West Bank, by comparison, some 55,000 students go to 95 UN schools, while the rest attend state schools.

A senior ministry official said over the weekend that the request for textbooks was submitted by both the Gaza Strip authorities and UNRWA about 10 days ago.

While most of the books were printed locally in Gaza, math books for grades 2-4 and science books for grades 3-4 were printed in the West Bank and must be delivered to the Gaza Strip.

Education Ministry Director General Basri Salah said his ministry had printed 300,000 copies of textbooks and coordinated their delivery with UNRWA two weeks ago. However, as of Saturday the books had yet to be delivered to the schools and the children in the relevant grades will start the school year without them.

Salah said he didn’t know what was causing the delay.

A COGAT official denied causing the delay and said they had only received the request last Tuesday. Examining and approving the books takes several days and COGAT doesn’t work weekends, he added.