For the past few weeks I have been working on a project revealing the horrid conditions of Palestinian education in the Jordan Valley. There are myriad reasons why the Palestinians in the Valley receive little to no help in the development of the educational system there; however, the main obstacle is the classification of nearly 95% of the Valley as Area C, meaning education is Israel’s responsibility and the PA is unable to do much for the schools. For the next few days I will be posting excerpts from my project, including profiles on four schools in the Jordan Valley as well as a look at how the Israeli occupation changes the lives of the Palestinian youth. I took all the photos in this series when visiting the Valley.
Education in the Jordan Valley – Area C
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. –Edward Everett
When Israel began occupying the fertile Jordan Valley in 1967, 320,000 Palestinians lived in the region. Over the past 40 years, Israel has instituted a creeping ethnic cleansing campaign, severely reducing the number of Palestinians residing in the Valley in order to prepare the Palestinian land for annexation. Israel has used the classification of nearly 95% of the Jordan Valley as Area C or restricted land – where Israel has security and administrative control – as a means to restrict the lives of the Palestinians in the Valley and to extend the process of annexation. Today, Palestine has control of merely 135 km2 of the 2,400 km2 of the Valley while Israel has subsidized the livelihood of 9,400 settlers and confiscated over half of the Jordan Valley for military purposes. Since 1967, Israel has managed to decrease the Palestinian population in the Valley by 82.5% to only 56,000.
[tweetmeme] In addition to the slow, forced transfer of the Jordan Valley’s Palestinian population, the classification of most of the Valley as Area C has had enormous consequences for the Palestinians who continue to reside there. Severe restrictions on movement, labor and commerce have isolated Palestinians communities and forced many into the deepest depths of poverty. Poverty levels in the Jordan Valley reach up to 60% as compared to 46% for the rest of the West Bank and 70% for Gaza. Despite the economic hardships forced onto the Gaza Strip by the Israeli blockade, a report by Save the Children UK revealed that poverty in parts of the Jordan Valley is worse than in most of Gaza. These horrendous living standards imposed on the Palestinians of the Jordan Valley by the Israeli Occupation have disastrous consequences on the Palestinian education system in the region.
A major part of the Israeli occupation of the Jordan Valley is the active struggle against Palestinian development of any kind. In addition to the refusal to allow Palestinian construction, Israel systematically demolishes Palestinian structures across the Valley. Peace Now has documented that between 2000 and 2007 only 6% of Palestinian permit applications were accepted; in the seven years, 91 permits were granted to Palestinians while 18,472 Jewish housing units were approved and built. Likewise, during the same seven year period, 1,663 Palestinian structures were demolished compared to 199 in the illegal settlements. Palestinian schools have not been able to escape the heavy hand of the Israeli annexation effort.
In the Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley, there are 38 schools that serve over 13,000 students. Nearly all the education institutions lack infrastructure and supplies while efforts to build new schools to service more remote communities are denied. In addition to the threat of demolition, schools are typically unable to receive the proper authorization from the Israeli occupational forces to make much needed repairs to meet basic health and safety regulations. Indeed, simple construction projects such as toilets or play areas are rendered illegal and are subject to demolition, severely limiting the ability of schools in the Jordan Valley to provide adequate education for Palestinian children. Of the 135 governmental schools in Area C, 24 are considered to be completely sub-standard. This year, over 13,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley returned to school in a tent, caravan or tin shack. Unfortunately, the tight grip of the occupation on the Jordan Valley relegates thousands of Palestinian children to unacceptably poor schools without the hope of improvement.