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Despite devastation, Gaza school year to begin in September

Aug. 15, 2014 1:36 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2014 8:07 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education has begun planning for the the upcoming school year in the Gaza Strip as normalcy slowly returns to the besieged coastal enclave devastated by five weeks of Israeli bombardment.

Even with 277 schools damaged in the assault -- including a large number which took direct hits -- Minister Khawla al-Shakhshir said on Friday that the ministry is hoping to begin classes within three weeks.

She said that the ministry is also focused on improving psychological services for students and families in the wake of the assault, which left nearly 2,000 dead, more than 10,000 injured, and 100,000 homeless.

The ministry's plans include individual and group activities focusing on psychological counseling and awareness with specific attention paid toward the mental well-being of children.

Al-Shakhshir also said that she had met with the director of education at the UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA, Caroline Pontefract, to discuss a common plan for starting the new school year in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Shakhshir said that the plan aims to enhance cooperation with UNRWA through a joint committee to prepare for the upcoming school year and help repair physical damage to educational infrastructure.

Of the 277 schools damaged by Israeli bombardment, 141 were government schools and 136 were UNRWA schools, according to the PLO.
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