‘UNRWA report on Gaza education false, biased’

Report obtained by 'Post,' claims UNRWA report linking difficulties in Gaza education system to blockade "misleading and distortive."

Gaza UNRWA 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gaza UNRWA 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Foreign Ministry is hitting back at what it is calling a series of biased and false United Nations reports issued recently about the Gaza Strip, with plans to submit an official report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in the coming days.
The Israeli report, prepared by the Civil Affairs Department in the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), is aimed at UNRWA, the UN body that assists Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
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The COGAT report, obtained exclusively on Thursday by The Jerusalem Post, was prompted by a report published in mid-May by Kishore Singh, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, in which it cited a claim by UNRWA that “a minimum of 100 new schools are required in order to meet the enrollment demands of the refugee children of Gaza and to return its schools to a single-shift system.”
In addition, Singh’s report cites another UNRWA claim that it had only received approval to build eight new schools in the Gaza Strip. The UN report blames Israel’s so-called blockade, imposed in 2007 and later eased up significantly following the Turkish flotilla last summer, as the cause for the difficult education system in Gaza.
The COGAT report, which a senior Foreign Ministry officials told the Post on Thursday would be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council – refutes both claims. Firstly it says that UNRWA has never provided the IDF with a list of 100 schools that it would like to build in the Gaza Strip.
According to the Israeli report, head of COGAT Maj.- Gen. Eitan Dangot met months ago with UNRWA and a representative of the UN Secretary General at his own initiative and asked to work jointly on a broad education plan for the Gaza Strip.
The COGAT report claims that Israel heard the claim regarding the schools for the first time from the media and that an official and detailed request was never received.
“The attempt to draw a connection between UNRWA’s difficulty in building 100 new schools and the blockade is misleading and distortive, and makes connections that have nothing to do with each other,” says the report.
According to official COGAT records obtained by the Post since the change in Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Gaza blockade in June, 2010, Israel has approved a total of 41 educational projects, 32 of them for UNRWA. Twentyfour of the 32 approved UNRWA projects were for new schools and another three approvals were granted for the expansion of existing schools According to the report, UNRWA has only begun bringing in building supplies for 11 of the schools, even though it has approval to do so for another 13.
The report provides a detailed list of the schools approved, with a breakdown of which ones are under construction and which ones are not.
The Heker Jama school in Dir Al-Balah, for example, received COGAT’s approval on January 6 but still has not brought building material into the Gaza Strip, even though it has approval to do so. Another school in Tel Sultan received COGAT approval on February 16 but UNRWA has not yet acted on the project.
In related news, the Foreign Ministry has conducted an analysis of another UNRWA report that came out earlier this week called “Gaza Blockade Anniversary Report,” which claims that unemployment in the second half of 2010 reached 45.2 percent in the Gaza Strip.
The Foreign Ministry review questions why the refugee population in Gaza, which is dealt with by UNRWA, saw a rise in unemployment of 4.07 percent while the non-refugee population saw a drop in unemployment by close to 9 percent.
“The question should be asked why refugees which rely on UNRWA and donor nations are not gaining from the overall economic growth and are blocked from the job market, while the general population in Gaza is experiencing a genuine improvement,” the Foreign Ministry official who analyzed the UNRWA report asked.
In response to the claims raised by COGAT in its report, UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness said that the relief agency had discussed its plan with COGAT in the past. He also said that projects were delayed since donors did not want to give funds after previous donations were not used for past projects due to what he called Israel’s refusal to approved projects presented years ago.