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While speaking to a U.N worker for the education cluster in Gaza it became apparent that the longest lasting impact of the 2014 summer conflict between Israel and Gaza is the psychological impact. The real loss from the conflict was not the destruction of homes or infrastructure, perhaps, arguably not even the loss of life (but very tragic nonetheless) it was the degradation of a generation. Right to Education stresses of the importance of schooling during a child’s formative years. Without the development that schooling provides potential is wasted and therefore a generation of development is lost to warring.
How can we measure this degradation of a generation one might ask? Alaa’ Abu Dhair puts it elegantly “you can select all and apply.” Even if a child in Gaza is not one of the 547 dead or 1,000 disabled due to Israeli airstrikes they may have lost a member from their family, or perhaps many. Israeli strikes hit schools, homes and streets in Gaza, children were under constant siege with no certainty of safety. Although schools can be rebuilt the difficulty of settling back into education is immense. Children suffer from grief, anxiety, and nightmares from the last war. Nobody can guarantee them that the same horrors will not return. The demand is so high for psychological support that schools are now ill-equipped to deal with every case. Indeed most schools in Gaza often operate on double or triple shift systems whereby a school day is repeated twice or three times to provide education for the whole school. This system is overstretched at the best of times and providing support for increasing rates of post-traumatic stress disorder is challenging the system further.
The real damage of the 2014 conflict will appear subtly in ten years time when a generation of war enter the workforce in Gaza. Although predicting the economic impact of this war in ten years time is speculation, it is more than likely that the conflict prevented children from reaching their potential thus limiting growth and development in Gaza. If there is a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict then it is in this generations future. However Israeli aggression will likely not be forgotten and the negative cycle of this conflict continues. To lift Gaza out of poverty education and interaction with the outside world is vital. Israel’s armed assault however has prevented this. It is more likely that isolation and lack of cultural exchange coupled with Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaigns will lead to fundamentalism. Although who can blame them?