GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Around 225,000 Gazan schoolchildren were forced to return home on Monday after local staff at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza went on strike on the first day of the new school year.
The strike comes amid a financial crisis in the agency that earlier threatened to delay the start of the school year.
"We didn’t want to suspend classes, but the administration of UNRWA pushed us to take that step," secretary general of the union of UNRWA employees, Raafat Hamdouna, said.
The union met with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl on Sunday and said the "atmosphere wasn’t positive."
The union is protesting against overcrowding at UNRWA schools and unpaid vacations. At present, there are over 50 children in each classroom, with employees urging the agency to reduce the maximum capacity to 38.
Hamdouna said union members will protest in five locations across Gaza, including a sit-in strike inside UNRWA's Gaza City headquarters to be attended by 13,000 employees. more