Education in the Jordan Valley – The Legal Right to Education

Education is not a privileged - it is a right protected by law. Yet Palestinian children in the Jordan Valley are denied access to this right.

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.  See the post on Area C here and demolitions here.  Unless noted, I took all the photos in this series when visiting the Valley.

The legal right of all children to a free and safe education is not new, not vague and not flexible.  Indeed, it is a right that has been repeatedly and clearly ensconced in international law for over 60 years.  In addition to the illegality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, preventing Palestinian children from receiving the proper and unhindered education that is ensured by international law is, in itself, a violation of several international conventions and agreements.  Not only does Israel violate its responsibilities as an occupying power, its occupational policies continually violate, often with intent, the right to education of Palestinian children, particularly in the Jordan Valley.  The right to education should be inalienable and the occupational policies in place in the Jordan Valley actively prevent Palestinian children from attaining this universal right.

[tweetmeme] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), drafted and accepted by all members of the United Nations in 1949, declares indisputably in Article 26 that ‘[e]veryone has that right to education.’  It continues to note that elementary education shall be compulsory and free while secondary education should be readily available.  The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), drafted in 1966, expanded upon the definition of the right to education given in the UDHR.  In addition to explicitly repeating the right to education, the ICESCR includes the right to secondary and higher education while noting that signatory states must actively pursue a system of schools increasing availability of education and ensuring that the ‘material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.’

The Israeli Occupation doesn't allow new schools to be built or existing schools to make much needed repairs

These principles were once again reiterated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC – 1990) as well as the Convention Against Discrimination in Education (CADE – 1962).  Both of these latter conventions require appropriate training of teachers as well as appropriate measures to increase retention to be taken.  Additionally, the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW – 1979) requires states to actively pursue gender equality in educations and specifically targets the retention of female students.  Israel is a signatory of all of these international agreements and is therefore held accountable for implementing them in occupied Palestine due to its role as an occupying force under international law.

The Forth Geneva Convention, ratified by Israel in 1951, outlines the requirements of an occupying force with regards to the occupied civilian population, including specific provisions concerning the right to education.  In Article 50, it is stipulated that the occupying power is required to work with national and local authorities in order to ensure that all educational facilities are adequate for the ‘care and education of children.’

By neglecting and inhibiting the education of Palestinians in the Valley, Israel is in direct violation of many international laws and agreements

The restrictive policies of the Israeli occupation make it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to adequately meet the educational requirements etched in international law.  Moreover, by actively maintaining a high level of poverty in the Jordan Valley, Israel is offering incentives to dropping out of school to join the work force, a clear violation of international law.  As an occupying force, Israel is required to work with the Palestinian government to ensure that the basic right to safe education is shared by all Palestinian youth.  As we will see this right is severely curtailed for many Palestinian youths in the Jordan Valley.

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