Ramallah: About 1.2 million students, as well as 71,000 teachers, in the West Bank and the coastal Palestinian enclave returned to their schools on Monday as the new academic year started after several months of closure due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Xinhua new agency.
Some of the schools belong to the government or the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while others are private educational institutions.
“Students went back to schools a month earlier than planned to make up for the gap that the past year has created,” Basri Saleh, the deputy education minister, told Xinhua.
He added that the current academic year will be divided into four semesters, instead of two, for fear of any emergency that can occur because of the pandemic.
On Sunday, Education Minister Marwan Awartani said that the teaching staff “will not be able to enter schools” unless they are fully vaccinated.
He confirmed that the Palestinian educational system is ready to receive students by providing a decent and safe space for each one of them.
The Ministry of Health has also announced that 82 per cent of its school staff in the West Bank had received vaccines.
Efforts are currently underway to vaccinate those who have not done so.
The Ministry stressed that school staff across the West Bank are required to wear face masks at all times, whether it is inside classrooms or in the open area.
It has also obliged students from 11 to 16 years old to do the same and demanded that any visitor to the schools present a vaccination certificate.
It also called for adherence to safety and prevention measures through social distancing, personal hygiene, and sterilization and the ventilation of classrooms.
In Gaza, the Hamas-run Ministry of Education said that schools will operate for six days a week, with all preventive measures taken and adherence to the health protocol.
Farid Abu Azra, the head of the UNRWA Education Program in Gaza, told Xinhua that the agency has established all necessary school facilities to start this academic year smoothly.
Abu Azra added that UNRWA worked to prepare particular health protocols for full face-to-face learning, coinciding with an extensive campaign to encourage education staff to take the widely available vaccines.
He explained that the UN agency has provided the necessary health, sterilization, and cleaning materials to its schools across the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian territories have so far registered 350,106 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 3,893 deaths.