[tweetmeme] 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, the role of the PA here, a case study on the Ka’abneh village here and demolitions here. Unless noted, I took all the photos in this series when visiting the Valley.
In the last few years, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has worked to make education paramount for the government, specifically tackling, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the problems of retention and overcrowding. The Fayyad administration has thus implemented programs that aim to reduce the dropout rate and has also constructed dozens of new schools to meet the demand of the Palestinian youth. Unfortunately, due to the Area C classification, most villages in the Jordan Valley have been excluded from the progressive educational initiatives of the PA.
For over the past forty years, the Israeli government has been leading a campaign of ethnic cleaning in the Jordan Valley aimed at preparing the Palestinian territory for annexation. Part of the Israeli strategy in this egregious plan is to deny Palestinians permission to build, expand and develop. While this restriction has drastically eliminated the ability of communities and individuals to ameliorate their economies that struggle under the occupation, it has also been heavily enforced against educational institutions. By eliminating the ability of Palestinians to construct or rehabilitate schools, Israel is essentially weakening the future of the Jordan Valley and thus tightening its grip on some of the most marginalized Palestinians.
Schools in Area C and unable to expand with the growing population or provide the current school-age children with adequate facilities. Many villages in the Jordan Valley are forced to educate their children in tents or tin shacks or have parts or even entire schools demolished. Issuing demolition orders to schools is not uncommon. Of the schools profiled, the Ka’abneh school has received six demolition orders in three years, the Jiftlik school was destroyed seven times in five years, the Fasaiyel school is currently fighting a demolition order in court and the Zubeidat school watched Israeli bulldozers destroy its modest sports field.
Yet villages in the Jordan Valley continue to fight for the right to education in the face of Israeli oppression. Knowing that receiving a permit to construct a school or even make needed improvements to ensure safety is nearly impossible, Palestinians have actively risked demolition orders by constructing schools, making important additions and fixing heath risks without the required Israeli permits. Many of these structures are subsequently destroyed by Israel; between 2000 and 2007 1,663 Palestinian structures were demolished while in July 2010, and again in August 2010, the Israeli bulldozers completely razed the entire village of Al Farisiya. At the end of 2009, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) found that 26 schools, serving over 6,000 children were facing severe difficulties due to “lengthy delays in the granting of permits, or because stop-work or demolition orders have been issued against schools or school infrastructure.”
Moreover, living in an area where schools, homes and, indeed, entire villages could be demolished has dramatic psychological effects on the Palestinian children. A UNOCHA report from July of 2010 found that “demolitions lead to a significant deterioration in living conditions, increased poverty and long-term instability, as well as limited access to basic services, such as education, health care and water and sanitation. The impact on children can be particularly devastating, including, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and reduced academic achievement.”
The result of the consistent barrage of demolition orders and demolitions is that villages are left without adequate infrastructure that is often unsafe and unhealthy. Many schools throughout the Jordan Valley are plagued by uneven floors, unclean and dangerous metal scraps surrounding the schools and even in the classrooms in addition to a lack of electricity and running water. Many more schools only consist of temporary caravans, tin shacks or tents. With numerous schools in the Jordan Valley lacking libraries, computer labs, science labs and working bathrooms the resources available to the Jordan Valley students pale in comparison to those whose education is administered by the Palestinian Authority.
Third photo taken by Jordan Valley Solidarity