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West Japan high school students interact online with Palestinian children in Gaza

Hyogo Prefectural International High School students are seen interacting online with children in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, in the city of Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on Jan. 18, 2022. (Mainichi/Sanae Kameda)

ASHIYA, Hyogo -- Some 20 students in the first and second year at a credit-based high school in this west Japan city with only a department of international studies interacted online with children in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, on Jan. 18 as part of peace education.

    Hyogo Prefectural International High School focuses on international understanding and language education, and lets its students participate in programs overseas. However, since they can no longer do so because of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers have been searching for countries and regions to connect with via the internet and students have continued global interactions.

    The Islamist militant group Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and the Israeli forces clashed in the area in 2021, and though a cease-fire is currently in effect, a harsh life with restricted access for people and supplies continues. After students suggested they wanted to think about what they can do for children of the same generation, teachers including Noriyoshi Kinbara contacted the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and other organizations, and decided to interact with students at a school run by the agency.

    Students in Japan learned about Palestinian geography, history, the current situation and life there, as well as their culture at two pre-study sessions.

    On Jan. 18, students were divided into groups and spoke in English with children aged 13 and 14 in Gaza. They engaged in topics ranging from future dreams and hobbies to what music and anime they like.

    Mariya Kawamoto, a second-year student commented, "There was a child who wanted to be a teacher in the future, and I felt that there was a difference in how we felt about being able to receive an education."

    Hyogo Prefectural International High School principal Mari Inoue said, "There must be people who live in conflict areas who are going about their daily lives. We'd like (for students) to start by understanding that."

    (Japanese original by Sanae Kameda, Hanshin Bureau)

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