PA Schools Open, Most Children Make It to Class

The school year opened yesterday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and most of the one million Palestinian pupils managed it to make it to class as the Israel Defense Forces eased closures in most cities. Curfews remained in effect in Jenin and the old section of Hebron, so in these two places 45,000 school children did not make it to class.

Studies were interrupted during the last school year between March and July (when examinations are administered. In some cities, classes were closed for at least two months. Disruptions in the 2001-2002 school year affected about 500,000 Palestinian school children.

In summer months, IDF troops continued to occupy cities on the West Bank, and most children remained confined to their homes under continuing closure and curfew policies. So the lifting of closures and the opening of school doors yesterday was greeted with a sense of relief. Yet officials from the Palestinian Authority Education Ministry said there is no telling whether classes this year can continue uninterrupted.

The start of the school year was greeted with special elation in Nablus, which has been under curfew for 70 consecutive days - restrictions have been lifted for short intervals, no more than 60 hours in that time. Through Friday night the authorities in Nablus did not know if the IDF would agree to relax the curfew.

A resident of an eastern Nablus a neighborhood yesterday said parents had decided to send their children to schools despite the lack of any official announcements about the curfew. Thousands of children began to walk on streets toward school and while they were en route, radio reports announced that the curfew would be suspended until 6:00 P.M.

Due to closure restrictions which prevent movement between towns and villages on the West Bank, thousands of children from villages have dropped out of city schools in which they were enrolled in past years.

Instead, they will attend schools in rural areas that are closer to their homes. The same issue of restricted movement compels thousands of teachers to make special arrangements to reach institutions in which they work.

The daily journey for many teachers can last several hours as they try to bypass road-blocks and walk long distances on foot. Many teachers have rented rooms in cities, so that they have a place to stay during the week close to their places of work.