Humanity & Inclusion has been implementing risk education projects in Gaza since the end of the conflict in 2014.
In addition to training 93 teachers from 45 private schools (two per school), of which 15 special schools for children with disabilities, HI has produced and made available a range of teaching materials, including two practical guides to help teachers organise awareness sessions, games and story models, and brochures for teachers and students.
“The aim of the awareness sessions is to change children's behaviour. There are so many explosives around - they’re almost part of everyday life. In these kinds of situations, people are sometimes so used to danger, they no longer think about it,” explains Bruno Leclercq, the Jerusalem-based head of HI’s mission in Palestine.
Children are often the main victims of explosive remnants. Naturally curious, they tend to take more risks and commit reckless acts. This is why HI ensures that risk awareness is taught in classrooms and also reaches children with disabilities.
Including children with disabilities
The sessions were designed to cater for children with disabilities, both physical, visual and hearing, and intellectual. Teachers have been trained to adapt their sessions to this audience: for students with visual impairments, for example, activities might focus on touch-based games - they should also be seated at the front of the classroom.
The teacher always use short sentences and repeat the messages several times to make sure that they are understood: “never touch these objects”, “do not approach them”, “warn an adult”, and the like.
One teacher composed a song with her pupils about situations in which they might typically come across explosive remnants of war. The pupils were asked to give a thumbs-up for good behaviour, and a thumbs-down for bad behaviour.
The danger and need for awareness are real
Osama Hamdan, who works as a risk education project manager in Gaza, recently had an experience which confirmed the level of threat from explosive remnants and the lack of risk awareness.
“At the end of a risk education session for a group of people in the Al-shuja'eya neighbourhood, including children, students and street vendors, a young man told us about a bomb remnant buried a few centimetres from the door of the school, which is attended by more than 1,500 students.”
“We immediately met with the head teacher and explained the danger: ‘Thank you for bringing such an important issue to our attention,’ she said. ‘I thought that since the bomb had already exploded, there was no risk.’ The head teacher immediately called a team of deminers and they were on the scene within minutes.”
Last December, Palestine became the 164th State Party to the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use of anti-personnel mines, confirming its intention to make mine action a priority.
HI has launched the Stop Bombing Civilians campaign and calling on the public to sign the petition. The aim is to put pressure on States to take action on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas - an indiscriminate practice that mainly kills and injures civilians. At least 43,000 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2016. When they are used in populated areas, 92% of casualties of explosive weapons are civilians. Say no to the bombing of civilians, sign the petition.