The students in the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine have lived under terrible circumstances in the last few months. By Maria C. Khoury The students in the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine have lived under terrible circumstances in the last few months. Along with thousands of Palestinian children they have been suffering immense psychological tension as a result of the Israeli brutality and the Palestinian massacre of innocent people. Mr. Abdallah Gazi, our 6th grade English teacher says that “Everyone in Palestine was affected. Even the stones are crying.” For almost two months during the siege his students did not have a regular English class because he could not travel from Nablus to the Latin Patriarchate School in Taybeh. Now, the normal 45-minute ride takes him about three hours. Teachers in the Beit Jala Latin Patriarchate School report that children have suffered from nightmares, fear, depression, and lack of focus and concentration during daily lessons. Children also seem to be alarmed and shaken by any loud noise. During the many nights of gun battles and bombings, children have developed persistent fear and worry about their life. Mr. Sami Qumsiyeh, our senior English teacher in Beit Jala states that students are scared of the night because of the helicopter bombings and scared of the day because of street shootings and the bloody scenes on TV. Hundreds of families in the Beit Sahour area had to flee their homes to escape the shower of bullets and the missiles that dropped in their neighborhoods. The psychological impact children are experiencing also shows up by repeated absence from school. Many of the children’s conversation during lessons reflect the state of fear the children are experiencing as a result of the continuous air raids in their neighborhoods. Most Beit Sahour and Beit Jala children suffer from Psychological trauma not because they have seen their peers die in cold blood as in Hebron or have lost their classmates to martyrdom as in Gaza. But most of these children for several months have woken up in the middle of the night to the roar of missiles and have seen fear in their parent’s eyes. Most teachers in all of our schools report precisely this problem that students are not able to concentrate as a result of repeated gun assaults and air raids exposing them to a very shocking experience. Ms. Juliana Wakila, our 5th grade English teacher in Ramallah says that some students appear more hyperactive these days than before. Others that were active and excellent students do not participate in class, do not answer questions, and seem to stare into space. Ms. Maha Khalil also sees worry and panic in her students’ eyes and can’t get them to concentrate on English. When the children hear the slightest noise, it is becoming normal for the teacher to hear, “Are they going to bombs us now?” She feels students lack interest in academic work because their future is so bleak. Most psychologists’ state, in general, children need a comfortable and safe environment filled with love and affection to grow and have a healthy upbringing in order to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you substitute safety with fear, it is common sense and we actually don’t need psychological research to confirm that the child and the family will suffer from worries and tension. Many psychologists believe that talking, writing or drawings are opportunities for the child to release tension. Our schools lack psychological services and the personnel to follow up on monitoring children who are expressing psychological trauma or psychological tension. Teachers are not trained to provide counseling or to even refer serious cases to professionals. Ms. Abeer Banura, our 6th grade English teacher in Beit Jala reports that her students appear depressed in their faces. They are not very happy in their general attitude and mood. She feels that their academic performance appears worse than previous years. Her students are more interested in talking about the current brutal situation in Palestine than putting efforts and care into their studies. The students are struggling to make good marks on their tests and it can be noticed that last year, the same students had received better marks during the semester finals. In general, students are not achieving their academic potential due to the instability and insecurity of their home life under constant Israeli attacks and bombings. Ms. Sana Abu Amsha, another excellent English teacher in Beit Jala reports that several students bring to school missile fragments and bullets they find in their neighborhood. Such war paraphernalia consumes school conversations. Ms. Suheila Slebeh who teaches younger children states that her students pretend to play games shooting at each other as Palestinians and Israelis in gun battle. She says the children talk about weapons and express aggressive behaviors in her second grade class. Ms. Luma Kalak in Birzeit hears her first graders say its normal to hit each other because they are living under attack by soldiers. Mr. Nabil Ghanaem, the high school teacher in Birzeit thinks the violence and current closure is making the students lazy and very bored because they don’t go out of their houses after school. Ms. Reema Sayej had a student tell her what it was like when he called his uncle at the moment the uncle was under missile attacks in Beit Sahour. The student and family were terrified hearing the bombings and shootings on the phone from their Birzeit home. Furthermore, Ms. Hanan Aranky, our first grade teacher reminds us that many students who live in villages outside Ramallah continue to be late arriving to school due to the Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks and general closure of main roads. Furthermore, she says many parents are consumed with watching news at home in order to be better informed about the current situation that they don’t spend as much time helping their children with homework. Parents themselves report they are terrified with the ongoing Intifada and want to know the latest happenings thus parents and children stay glued to the TV mainly watching news instead of more pleasant programs like movies and cartoons. The constant bloody scenes on the Palestinian news deeply effect not only the children but the adults too. Mr. Hanna Basir, our senior English teacher in Taybeh confirms that he was forced to stop watching TV because the scenes are so bloody and violent they affect everyone emotionally and psychologically. Moreover, Palestinian children are repeating revolutionary and national songs that are part of their identity and culture. The revolutionary songs are deeply moving and have surely affected children psychologically. These national songs are being sung by children as young as three years old. Even if you don’t understand all of the words like me, one hour in the van with young children on the way home after school everyday brings tears to your eyes because the tone, the rhythm, the sound, the beat just seep into your spirit. Preschoolers sing, “The martyrs are God’s beloved people” instead of alphabet songs. A popular song by a famous Lebanese singer Julia Boutros encourages young people to go out and protest the occupation by asking, “where are the millions of Arabs? Where are the young people? Where is the Arab honor? The rich people are sitting while the poor are fighting.” Another song entitled, “The scream of the rock” remembers the Palestinians killed in Der Yassin and other refugee camps throughout history. Dozens of songs state “Jerusalem will return to us. We will have our rights.” Thus, children are hoping everyday through songs for justice to prevail and sovereignty to come because they are the future of Palestine. In conclusion, there are indeed grave psychological affects on Palestinian students. Last Thursday, January 25th on his way home after school, Mohammed Abu Hadid, a senior student at the Taybeh Latin Patriarchate School, kicked a bag as he stumbled upon it in the street. Instantly a bomb blow up injuring him and leaving him psychologically, physically and spiritually affected by the current situation in Palestine. We consider this student lucky to have his life. Other students are affected these days because in their household they have one less member. According to Palestinian sources, out of the 383 people killed in the last few months, 145 were children under eighteen years of age. Furthermore, from the total injured of 16, 445, over five thousand were children under the age of eighteen. The psychological affects not to mention some injuries will last forever.
Psychological Affects on Palestinian Students