September 21, 2004, Vienna, Austria - The OPEC Fund for International Development today approved a grant of US$2 million to support the second phase of a project that will provide grants to nine non-governmental, non-profit universities to directly cover the tuition fees of needy students in Palestine's West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As a result of the Intifada, Palestinian settlements have experienced the widespread destruction of schools, medical centers, roads and homes. Most areas are subject to stringent curfew and movement restrictions that disrupt economic activity and prevent access to social services, especially educational institutions. More than half of all students in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have had their studies interrupted as they have been unable to reach their universities, and financial hardship has left many without the means of paying their fees.
Implemented in 2002, Phase I, which was co-financed by the Arab Monetary Fund, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the OPEC Fund, helped pay tuition fees for over 85,000 students. Universities also received an allocation for establishing a revolving credit fund, which beneficiaries pay back in small monthly installments once they graduate and start their careers. The credit scheme helped more than 12,000 poor students defray their living expenses. To expand in these successes, Phase II will be implemented following the same mechanism over two more academic years.
This is the sixth grant approved under the Fund's Special Grant Account for Palestine, which was set up in 2002 with an initial endowment of US$10 million and replenished earlier this year with US$15 million. The first grant supported Phase I of the present scheme; a second helped finance the rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings; a third helped purchase emergency medical equipment and supplies for Palestinian hospitals and clinics; a fourth co-financed seven social projects; while a fifth supported four capacity-building projects.
Project: Assistance to Educational Institutions (Phase II)
OPEC Fund grant: US$2 million
Beneficiary country: Palestine
Total cost: US$20 million
Co-financier: Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (Arab Fund)
Executing agencies: Welfare Association, Palestinian Ministry of Education, Beneficiary Universities
Grant administrator: Arab Fund
Project duration: 2 academic years (September 2004 - August 2006)