Sireen Harb, 23

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I lived in Rafah but was forced to move to Tel Hawa in Gaza City after I accepted a job teaching English at the Al-Salam school in Northern Gaza. It still takes me 35 minutes to travel to the school. During rush hour, or when there are fuel shortages, it can take more than an hour and a half to reach school, and sometimes the lack of fuel and transportation shortages make me late for school.

I teach English, focusing on listening comprehension. I try to use computers and recordings, but electrical outages mean that often I must teach orally. Because I am not a native English speaker, I don’t pronounce words correctly and my grammar isn’t always correct so students suffer.

My school, which is private, has a twinning program with an Italian school. The school in Italy has offered scholarships for students to travel to Italy and we would like to offer students from Italy the opportunity to visit us in Gaza. However, the blockade makes exchanges virtually impossible. Students are not allowed to travel outside.

Once the school did succeed in obtaining travel permits for 14 students. One student didn’t receive a permit, probably because he had a brother who had been killed by the Israeli military or because another relative was in prison. This left him depressed and there was nothing we could do for him.

The students who traveled to Italy had an amazing opportunity, but also learned about what they don’t have. They saw the science labs in Italy and the technology there and realized what is denied to us. No chemicals are allowed to come in to Gaza so teaching chemistry is limited.

Since our school is private it is much better equipped than either public or United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, but we still lack many resources that are necessary for students to grow. This limits their futures.

I am also limited. I can’t access the resources I need to continue to develop as a teacher. I can try to learn on my own using a computer, but I don’t know if I am learning things correctly. Even career development opportunities are denied to us.

Seren Harb
During the 2014 Israeli attacks on Gaza, 252 schools were damaged and seven were destroyed by airstrikes.
Over 160,000 children in Gaza are estimated to be in need of continuous psychosocial support.