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Asma Amin Tubasi from Rafah remembers her father telling her to stop studying using the old oil lamp after a series of accidents in the Gaza Strip saw children injured and homes burned due to unsafe fuel smuggled in from Egypt.
“She would study 18 hours a day, and she has made me so proud today, scoring 99.4 on the literary stream of the Tawjihi, the highest score in all of Gaza,” her father said.
From September to January, Asma’s family had an average of 2-8 hours of blackouts each day, but in January, when the Palestinian Authority took over fuel transfers to Gaza from the EU, a shortage of funds and fuel lead to blackouts of 8-12 hours day.
“These power cuts exacerbate the already difficult living conditions in Gaza and disrupt almost all aspects of daily life, including household chores, health services, education and water and sanitation services,” a special UN report on the electricity crisis in Gaza reported in May.
“I was just hoping for a better ending,” Asma said, explaining that when the oil lamp was no longer an option she would use the light on her phone.
Her father, who works for the Ministry of Waqf (religious endowments) in Gaza, said he worried she would damage her eyes reading in such low light, with rolling power cuts spreading darkness over the Gaza Strip by 10 in the evening.
Her achievement is all the more impressive given the troubles plaguing the education system in Gaza. Statistics from the UN have shown that attendance and performance in public schools have declined as a result of aging education infrastructure, overcrowding, and frequent disruptions caused by military operations.
In the first semester of the 2007-2008 school year, only 20% of 16,000 sixth graders in Gaza passed standardized exams in Math, Science, English and Arabic, a study by Gaza’s Ministry of Education found.
When Asma saw the result of the exams for which she had spent the year preparing, “I screamed, I cried, I laughed, I could not believe I had done it,” she explained.
“She is a dedicated girl, she read all the time amidst a very difficult situation,” her father explained, adding that he believed she was so determined to succeed because she wanted “a better future for herself, and a better future for Gaza.”