Five church schools in Gaza are facing closure by the Hamas government if it follows through with an order forbidding co-educational institutions.
The Catholic Herald reports that the director general of Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and Israel is gravely concerned that the schools- two Catholic and three Christian- do not have the funds or the space to divide into separate schools.
Fr. Faysal Hijazin said, “This will be a big problem. We hope they will not go through with it, but if they do, we will be in big trouble.”
Hijazin said that, in addition to finding other spaces for divided schools, there would be a need to hire more teachers. Under Islamic law, men and women teachers would not be permitted to teach classes of the opposite sex older than 10 years.
“We will never accept this even if we have to close the schools,” Hijazin said.
Hijazin said that Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem is hoping to speak with Gaza’s prime minister, Ismail Hanlya, to discuss the Church’s concerns.
The patriarchate administers the Latin Patriarchate School, which has 370 students, and the Holy Family School, with 650 students. The Rosary Sisters also operate their own schools. Most of the students enrolled in the schools are Muslim. Four of Holy Family School’s recent graduates are Christian.
Hijazin said that the five church schools are the only schools in Gaza with mixed enrollment.
“It is a concern that in education things are getting more conservative,” he said. “It reflects the whole society. This is of concern to both Christians and moderate Muslims. It is not easy to be there.”