of The United Nations said Wednesday it was helping Palestinian children in the blockaded Gaza Strip connect with the outside world by distributing tablets to hundreds of students. Nearly half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are children. Most of them could not leave coastal areas controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas. Last year, 890 tablets were distributed in schools run by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

“We are very conscious that as our children grow up they must be able to engage in an increasingly digital world,” Thomas White, the agency’s Gaza director, told AFP. A 15-year blockade of the Israeli-led enclave has paralyzed Gaza’s economy, leaving 74% of its young graduates unemployed, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

UNRWA sees European Union-funded projects to improve children’s computer skills as a way to increase opportunities for local or remote jobs in the growing technology sector. This could “provide an opportunity for young Gazans to earn income and rise in the corporate world,” White said, standing in a schoolyard in Gaza City.

The project could help young Gazans start coding and could provide back-office IT support for companies and online customer support, he added. But Gazans still have to contend with frequent blackouts and his 2G-limited internet access. Her 13-year-old Salma Shamiah was one of those who received a new tablet after excelling in her school at Tech Her Summer. “In the future, I want to study programming and have a programming company in Gaza,” she said in a classroom filled with computers. “I feel like Gaza is lagging behind in programming.In the future programming will rule the world and achieve useful and beautiful things.” – AFP

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