A Gaza Vocational College Devastated by the War

Al-Fanar Media, August 6, 2014

During the latest ceasefire in the latest war between Israel and Hamas, more educational institutions have been able to take stock of the damage done.

University College of Applied Sciences, one of the main vocational education institutions in Gaza with about 9,000 students, released photographs and a statement today about the destruction of its facilities under Israeli bombardment.  The photographs make it clear that the damage was not the result of a single errant missile but multiple strikes.

“Our college suffered greatly from the destruction and devastation,” said Mahmoud Hamid, administrative deputy, in the statement.

According to Hamid, the shelling appeared to directly target the college buildings. In a region where the mismatch between education and employment is often discussed, the college focuses on providing education that can give its graduates jobs.

The Israeli Defense Forces could not be immediately reached for a response as to why the University College was attacked.  Damage at one other university in Gaza appeared to be the result of an attack on a nearby satellite facility and a strike on the administration building at Islamic University was said by the Israelis to be an attack on a weapons development facility, the existence of which the university denied.  (See related article.)

The University College of Applied Science’s central administrative building was destroyed, in addition to a large conference hall. Many of the classrooms were destroyed and the computer labs burned. The electrical and computer networks, water and air conditioning systems were completely disrupted. 

“Targeting our university was shocking news,” said Rustam Refaat, the college president. “We prepared ourselves before the aggression to welcome about 3,500 new students of high school graduates this year. We have already opened a range of new disciplines taking into account the need of the local labor market, and we equipped our laboratories for this purpose. But now everything was destroyed.”

Refaat doubted the possibility of starting the new academic year on schedule. “This will be reflected negatively on the sector of vocational education in the Gaza Strip, and will affect the educational process in most universities and colleges.”

Due to the damage to the Internet and electricity networks, the University’s website is temporarily down. The University administration put a message on the site’s home page asking site visitors to check the university’s Facebook page. The Facebook page is filled with students’ questions about registration and the new date for starting their studies, in addition to comments of support.

Vocational education plays an important role in alleviating the problem of unemployment in the besieged Gaza strip. According to latest Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of vocational-education graduates who can find jobs in the labor market is high compared to the total population. Forty seven percent of male vocational-education graduates and 24 percent of female graduates found employment.

Despite the severe damage, administrators say hope still exists. “We will not lose our resolve to continue even under the worst conditions and with poor resources,” Refaat said, calling on all who show solidarity with Gaza to help them in reconstruction.