School in a Cage
From a meeting the headmaster of the coeducational High School in Burin
We arrive in the schoolyard, surrounded by big metal fences. Young boys are playing basketball. A loud “How are you? What is your name? Where are you from?” is welcoming. Proud students accompany us to the teacher’s room. Upstairs, on the first floor, we can see girls giggling, watching curiously through windows of metal bars.
As we wait for a meeting with the headmaster, one of the teachers asks us if we would like to talk with the girls and practise their English skills. After the first moments of shyness and silence, we discover fast what the young women would like to study at university and how they travel the world by reading novels. One of them proudly shows her works of calligraphy. Poems of time and religion are hidden in the art of making letters dance on paper.
This school is one of a few coeducational highschools in the region. Students, 223 of them are reading, laughing, running, playing here and 28 of the students are girls. “Welcome to our school, we thank you very much for your presence and we hope that you can tell other people about our situation here”, starts Ibrahim Omran, the headmaster of the Highschool. His eyes are warm and friendly, proud but worried.
“The school was founded in 1927. I was a student here, then I worked in this school as a secretary and a teacher before I became the headmaster in 2011.” Ibrahim Omran takes a breath and describes how the village of Burin, and especially the school, suffers under Israeli military and the illegal settlement Yitzhar. The settlement was established in 1983 as a military outpost. In 1984 it was turned to residential purposes. The inhabitants of Yitzhar are widely known to be among the most extreme Israeli settlers.
The village of Burin is divided in zone B and zone C, (read more in the article impressions of Burin. http://iwps.info/2017/11/olive-harvest-impressions-of-burin
The school is located in Zone C, which is under full Israeli control since the 1993 Oslo Accords. In 2012 the area was declared to be a security zone of the illegal settlement Yitzhar. A military communication tower was built next to the school and since then children are not allowed to play on the field, which belongs to the school.
Settlers are randomly coming down the hill, attacking the school, throwing garbage and stones. As soon as children respond to the attacks, the military throws teargas, and the schoolyard loses its purpose by being turned into an interrogation office.
Six times soldiers surprised Ibrahim Omran in his house at night, demaged his property and his home, took him to prison and promised to release him as soon as he gives them the names of his students they they alleged to have thrown stones. As he stayed silent, they threaten to close his school down.
“The school ground consists of 55 dunam (1). In the past the whole area was open, and children were playing on the field, but since we are facing more and more attacks we had to put up the fences to provide safety for the children. Our students complain that the school is like a prison. But what can we do? We don’t have money to arrange it differently and the military zone forbids us to use our land.” Omran adds that a couple years ago the Dutch council promised to support them by building a playground, but after receiving a phone call by an Israeli officer, the offer was withdrawn. The same was repeated with an offer by a delegation from China.
“The learning process of our students is always disturbed and the Israeli military threatens to close our school. Only international institutions and the media can help to initiate change. They have to put pressure on the Israeli regime.”
In the meantime, children from Burin will have to learn and play in a cage.