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, the legal right to education here and demolitions here. Unless noted, I took all the photos in this series when visiting the Valley.
The Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) was established in 1994 under the Oslo Accords. Thus, the early history of the Ministry documents the struggles of trying to assume all of the educational responsibilities from the Israeli forces, followed by the implementation of the Ministry’s first five year plan (2001-2005). Progress in Palestinian education was severely curtailed, however, during the 2000’s due to the breakout of the Second Intifada as well as the political divisions resulting from the elections of 2006. It was not until 2008 that the second and current five year plan was established by the Ministry and the Palestinian educational system finally began to truly progress.
Understanding that a prosperous education is the only means to a successful future, the Ministry is aiming to improve the Palestinian educational system through concrete goals and steps. The Ministry expressed two main goals for the next five years in its current strategic plan. First, the MoEHE aims to increase the access of all educational levels to all school-aged children throughout Palestine and to improve the ability of the educational system to retain students and reduce the drop-out rate. Secondly, the Ministry intends to improve the quality of the teaching and learning, construct new educational institutions, promote a special needs program, introduce an expanded career guidance services, improve the existing educational facilities and develop more student services and activities. The Ministry also intends to ensure that all Palestinian schools are equipped with an updated computer lab and science lab as well as a library in order to completely modernize Palestinian education and to provide the children with the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed.
[tweetmeme] While the MoEHE has made strides towards achieving these goals throughout much of the West Bank, its inability to truly reach many of the schools located in the Jordan Valley has made many of these goals unattainable. The Ministry’s strategic plan stipulates that “special attention will be given to the poor. Classrooms, schools and non-formal education programs will be established in geographical locations where poverty is higher or where people are isolated due to Israeli restrictions.” The classification of 95% of the Jordan Valley as Area C or restricted zones under the Oslo Accords not only isolates communities within the region, restricts the movement of Palestinians and creates outrageous levels of poverty, it also severely restricts the ability of the Ministry to develop schools in the area.
Despite the pressing needs of the schools in the Jordan Valley, and although the MoEHE has determined that these schools have the greatest need for governmental assistance, the Ministry does not have the authority to make significant, required improvements to Palestinian schools in the Jordan Valley. Although it is charged with the education of all Palestinians, the Ministry is only able to provide the salaries of and offer trainings to the teachers of schools in Area C. Nearly all the schools in the Jordan Valley are in need of some kind of renovation, while many villages lack a school altogether. Moreover, most schools in the Valley, and particularly in those communities located in Area C, struggle to provide the most basic of services to its students.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education has set some very ambitious goals for the next five years, looking to drastically improve the Palestinian educational system. Left behind, unfortunately, are the children who happen to live in Area C. Although the Ministry has a clear plan for Palestinian education, the limitations imposed on the Ministry’s capacities by the occupation have immense consequences for the children of the Jordan Valley.
All photos from Chris, 2010
 From page 49 of the Ministry of Education’s strategic plan