The 2014 bombing destroyed many homes and farmland n Gaza. But it also damaged or destroyed several preschools and other education facilities. For some, it was not the first time.
In the 2009 bombings, the staff at the Tufulah Hadeetha preschool in Zaytoon area of Gaza City had to leave the area and rent another building in order to welcome back their students after the bombings stopped. The building had been damaged almost beyond repair.
A Temporary School Becomes More Permanent
The staff transferred what was left of the playground equipment to the new location, which was relatively safe but not better as far as infrastructure. The paint was peeling off the walls, the roof was made of palm trees leaves and the bathrooms and water fountains were not up to standard either. “The walls were real and the fence was not safe, children were deprived from playing outside and remain cramped in the classrooms. No one could deny that playgrounds are the essence of any preschool,” explained head teacher Abeer Abed El E Wahed.
Then Abeer learned that the 2014 bombings had destroyed the original preschool facility so there was no going back. And yet, the conditions at the new location were deplorable. The school had been on Anera's list for repair work before the war started. During its damage assessments after the 2014 war ended, Anera staff heard about the deteriorated conditions and the early childhood development team took action, putting the preschool on the priority list for renovation, which included painting the classrooms, building new toilets and water fountains, a playground shed and a protective fence.
Now Abeer stands at the newly painted gate to welcome the preschoolers. Her cheerful yet thoughtful manner, she says, was developed by growing up in a family that was oriented toward children, and her experience watching her mother run a preschool in Egypt gives her a unique personality.
Abeer misses the old preschool that was destroyed in the war. She says It was smaller but it was closer to the children’s homes. But she is delighted to see the renovations have brightened the ambiance at their 'new' school.
School Playground is Safe Haven for Children Traumatized by War
The preschool teachers also are delighted with the renovated playground that offers a safe place for Gaza’s children who have been seriously affected by the war. “When we returned to school, we checked on our children and when we heard their stories, we decided to dedicate the first two weeks to giving them support and letting them have fun in the playground,” said head teacher Abeer.
Preschooler Maise says her favorite place in the new playground is the slide. “We also decorated the walls with photographs of our graduates and our activities to add some color and memories of better times, “said Abeer.
Humanitarian reports estimate that more than 373,000 children need psychosocial support after the intensive bombings that lasted 51 days. At Al Tofulah Al Hadeetha, Abeer sees many children with post-traumatic stress, including bed wetting, nightmares and clinging to parents.
When the bombings erupted, Osama and Yazan fled their home with their parents, older brothers and grandmother, and ended up sheltering at a local society. They both love their preschool, which now accommodates 85 children. Abeer says the parents tell her the kids count the minutes until the bus arrives to pick them up in the morning.
“They start their day full of energy and joy. This all what a preschool is about.”