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Palestinian political tensions impacting education sector

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Human Rights Report: Palestinian political tensions impacting education sector

Human Rights

Palestinian political tensions impacting education sector

Report, PCHR, 25 August 2008

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is deeply concerned over the latest developments resulting from the conflict between the two Palestinian governments in Ramallah and Gaza, which have directly impacted the educational sector in the Gaza Strip. This is threatening the future of thousands of students in public schools throughout the Gaza Strip, especially as these developments coincide with the beginning of the new academic year.

PCHR calls upon all parties, including the governments of Gaza and Ramallah and the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, to ensure the continuation of the educational schedule in the Gaza Strip in order to protect the future of thousands of students, and to keep public schools away from political conflict. PCHR calls on all parties not to force teachers out of the public education sector with threats of dismissal from the public services by the Ramallah government if they do not commit to the declared strike. Teachers are also being threatened with being pursued by security services, and losing their jobs in Gaza if they do join the declared strike.

The General Secretariat of General Union of Palestinian Teachers, which is aligned with the Fatah movement, declared a five-day strike at public schools throughout the Gaza Strip to be launched on 24 August, the first day of the new school year, in protest to what it described as “arbitrary decisions” taken by the Ministry of Education of the Gaza government. These decisions have included transferring school directors and teachers to other schools, arresting a number of directors and teachers, attacking janitors and confiscating keys to schools.

According to information gathered by PCHR field workers, on the first day of the new school year, Sunday 24 August 2008, a partial strike was reported at all public educational institutions in the Gaza Strip. The commitment of teachers to the strike was estimated at 45 to 55 percent. Consequently, the first day of school was largely disrupted as many school directors, teachers and administrative staff committed themselves to the five-day strike declared by the General Union of Palestinian Teachers. In a subsequent development, the Internal Security Service belonging to the Ministry of Interior of the Gaza government circulated communiqués to directors of public schools, in which it threatened to take what it called “necessary legal actions” against whoever disrupts the educational process.

In the same context, the police of the Gaza government arrested three school directors on Sunday:

1. Mohammed Yousef Abu Shawareb, Director of Kamal ‘Odwan Secondary School “A” in Rafah; 2. Mohammed Shihda al-Bayoumi, Director of Abu Yousef al-Najjar Secondary School in Rafah 3. Shihda Abu Zraiq, Director of Hayel ‘Abdul Hamid Secondary School in Beit Hanoun. The three school directors were apparently arrested in relation to the implementation of the strike.

PCHR is following up all accelerated developments that impact the public education sector. PCHR calls upon all parties, including the governments of Gaza and Ramallah, to nullify all measures and decisions that have completely or partially disrupted the educational process at schools in the Gaza Strip. PCHR also calls upon all parties to respect and promote the right of education for all people, to ensure the sustainable development of the education sector in Gaza, for the sake of thousands of Gaza students.

1. PCHR calls upon all parties involved in the educational sector, including the governments of Gaza and Ramallah, to immediately nullify all measures that have been taken so far, and to abstain from threats to take new measures which may push the educational sector into further political conflict between the Fatah and Hamas movements, and may negatively impact the interests of students and the new school year.

2. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian police in Gaza to immediately release all school directors and teachers who were arrested in the context of measures taken to confront the strike at public schools.

3. PCHR condemns various threats by parties against to employees of the public education sector, which serve to create an atmosphere of concerns over their future.

4. PCHR believes that the Palestinian law ensures the right for everyone to organize strikes as a protesting expression and in defense for the interests of various groups, provided that strikes are voluntary and self-decided without any coercion or threat.

5. PCHR calls upon the Ministry of Education in Gaza to invite the General Union of Palestinian Teachers for negotiations over all related issues, in order to reach an agreement that can ensure the interests of students of public schools in the Gaza Strip, and the interests of both the ministry and employees of public education, which can eventually lead to the resumption of the educational process in Gaza.

(electronic intifada)