Tuesday 27 November 2012

Student Twinning Meeting at Al Quds

This Sunday we had a very enjoyable and productive meeting with students from Al Quds who are keen on keeping the twinning links with London Universities alive.

We plan to meet with them again this coming Sunday and are looking forward to the Twinning Conference with Middlesex University which is due to go ahead on 5th December we hope.

In the university's Law and Gender Studies building, we are (left to right) Cecil, Tarek, Ody, Razan, Rama, Diana, Anna, and Tahmina.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Strikes over pay

Although the campus has been buzzing with students the two or three times we have visited since we’ve been here, lots of lectures have been cancelled.  We were also supposed to be going in to work with students and administrative staff at Al Quds University, but this will not take place util after Eid celebrations next week.  This is because the public sector has been on strike over pay.  It is now the third consecutive month since the last payment from the PA (Palestinian Authority who is in charge of public sector payments in the West Bank).

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.  One reason for the reoccurrence is that Israel’s occupation of Palestine means that the West Bank's economy income is linked to Israel’s economy. The direct effect of this linkage is that the West Bank is prevented from developing its own economy that can rely only on Palestinian businesses, factories and economic projects. The West Bank is therefore partially dependent on the money generated from Israel’s economic endeavours (Israel is obligated to give money to the PA because as the occupying power they have to financially support the Palestinian population according to international law) and since 1993 has been largely dependent on foreign aid (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/palestinian-authority-salaries_n_1646032.html). In the wake of the current global financial crisis many donor countries have cut back on their foreign aid agreements with the West Bank (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20121012139351). Additionally, Israel have significant control over how much money is given to the PA and consequently influences the amount of money that is available  to pay public sector workers in the West Bank.

Both of these factors mean that the Palestinian authority do not currently have the $150 million dollars monthly they say they need to pay their public sector employees, including state school teachers and university lecturers. Although, the effects of the linkage of the Palestinian and Israeli economies hugely influences the money that is available to pay state school teachers in the West Bank, questions should also be asked about the extent to which economic corruption within the PA influences why they are currently not paying their teachers. This is a popular view shown by a Palestinian Public Opinion Poll conducted in June 2012; 71% of Palestinians interviewed thought that there was corruption within the PA (http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2012/p44efull.html#domestic).

These brief considerations highlight how the Israeli occupation of Palestine is hindering the amount and quality of education in the West Bank.

Sunday 11 March 2012

First post in a long time - early beginnings of the EVS project!

OK it's been a long time since this blog was updated! Time to start turning the wheels of motion.

I'm one of 5 volunteers currently based in Abu Dis for 3 months as part of the EVS (European Voluntary Service) scheme. So far, there has been 4 volunteers who made up the 1st group of EVS volunteers - they are now back in the UK. The project lasts for 2 years and is funded (partly- we also need the financial support of people like you who read this blog!) by the European Commission. Over this time, the aim is to develop and strengthen friendship links between schools in Abu Dis and schools in Camden, London in order to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Palestine as well as furthering cross-cultural understanding of both Palestinian and British society.

This particular blog is to connect the students at Al-Quds University with universities in London. English conversation classes are held for English students at the university and also welcomes those who have an intermediate to advanced level of English.

Today we talked about university in Palestine and comparisons with universities in England. One of the things that came out was the fact the students pay a lot of money for their fees but they feel that often it doesn't help to secure a job when they finish their degree. Due to the occupation employment opportunities relating to your studies can be difficult to find.

They also stressed the importance of doing well in your 'Towjeehee' the final school exams for Palestinians. If you do extremely well (over 80%) you can choose any university, in this regard it is similar to the English higher education system. However, if you don't perform well in your Towjeehee exams there are no 2nd chances.

One of the guys told me that his friend left to study Medicine abroad in Germany. He succeeded in his degree but when he came back to Palestine he was told by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that he could not practice here because his Towjeehee grade was not high enough! I was surprised by this, but one of the women supported the decision saying that she didn't think he would make a good doctor because he didn't do well in his Towjeehee.

Palestinians often use the cliched metaphor of being 'between a rock and hard place'. The occupation represents the rock, maintaining some sort of miserable consistency, while the PA is the hard place that attempts to manage and administer services in highly bureaucratic, and some argue corrupt, ways.