Palestinian refugees in Gaza on Wednesday reached a deal with local employees to end a crisis which has the plagued the start of the school year in the besieged territory.
Head of the UNRWA employees union, Suheil al-Hindi, said the agreement was reached after a stormy four-hour meeting with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.
The deal includes a maximum class size of 39 students, down from 50, which will lead to the employment of 270 new teachers in the coming weeks, he said.
No agreement has been reached yet on the issue of unpaid vacations. Staff in UNRWA’s schools went on strike on the first day of the school year in August to protest overcrowding and unpaid vacations.
Parents later joined the protest, saying they would not send their children to school for the rest of the week. Out of a population of 1.8 million in the Gaza Strip, some 1.26 million are refugees, according to UN figures. UNRWA oversees education for most children — some 225,000 in 245 schools.
Dozens of schools were damaged and affected by last summer’s war between Palestinian militants and Israel. UNRWA had faced a financial crisis for months which threatened to delay the start of the school year across the Middle East.
The UN agency was only able to announce that the year would go ahead as scheduled after a last minute scramble for funding secured just short of $80 million in contributions against its deficit. MAAN