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United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
19 May 1992
United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Hundred and thirty-ninth Session
PARIS, 19 May 1992
Item 4.3.1 of the provisional agenda
Application of 26 C/Resolution 16 concerning educational
and cultural institutions in the occupied Arab territories
In the present addendum the Director-General informs the Executive Board of developments having taken place since the preparation of 139 EX/6.
1. As regards the University of Bir Zeit, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO, by letter of 5 March 1992, conveyed to the Director-General the concerns expressed by Mr Hanna Nasir, President in exile of Bir Zeit University, at the decision of the Israeli military authorities to prolong the closure of the university for a further period of two months starting 1 March 1992. The Permanent Observer asked the Director-General to intervene again with the Israeli authorities so as to ensure the normal functioning of all educational institutions.
2. The Director-General responded, referring to his previous interventions and requests to the Israeli authorities through their Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, in order to ensure the normal functioning of the educational institutions including the University of Bir Zeit. The Director-General also provided information he had received from the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Israel, through a letter of 3 March 1992, which indicated that the order of closure concerned only the campus of the university but did not disturb the university teaching.
3. Also on 24 April 1992, the Director-General responded to the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Israel to UNESCO, acknowledging receipt of the Ambassador’s letter of 25 February 1992 which described the situation of higher education institutions in the occupied territories and conveyed to the Ambassador the concern expressed by Mr Hanna Nasir, the President in exile of Bir Zeit University at the prolongation of the closure of the university and requested that the situation of Bir Zeit be returned to normal. The Director-General also expressed the wish to discuss further with the Ambassador the situation of educational institutions and the Israeli Government’s position in this respect.
On 30 April 1992, the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Israel, informed the Director-General that the Israeli Minister of Defence had informed the administration of Bir Zeit University on 19 April 1992 of the decision authorizing, in principle, the reopening of the campus of the university as from 29 April 1992. By virtue of this authorization, the Faculties of Science and Engineering would reopen and function during the coming semester in the new campus. If the education process continues normally, all other faculties will be authorized to reopen as well at the beginning of the new academic year (October 1992).
In a letter dated 27 April 1992, the Permanent Delegate of the Syrian Arab Republic informed the Director-General of developments in the Syrian Golan Heights, between the previous and the present sessions of the Executive Board, which had in his view resulted in further deterioration in the educational and cultural institutions. He expressed the wish that the relevant resolution of the General Conference be fully implemented and that special attention be given, in this context, to:
Syrian school curricula in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights;
organize specialized short training courses and seminars for teachers;
allow students from the Golan Heights to benefit from the Scholarship Fund established at UNESCO, pursuant to 23 C/Resolution 27;
and enable Father Bone to carry out his mission in accordance with paragraph 15 of 23 C/Resolution 27.
In a letter dated 30 April 1992, the Secretary-General of the Council for Higher Education informed the Assistant Director-General for Education that Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip, who seek education at the West Bank universities, are systematically harassed by the occupation forces, and academic freedom is not guaranteed for them. Faculty and students from the Gaza Strip must acquire a permit from the authorities before they can study or teach in any of the West Bank universities. The Secretary-General also reported that West Bank and Gaza Palestinian graduates of the off-campus studies are prevented by the Israeli military authorities from finding employment in the public sector, because the authorities say that those students graduated in defiance of a closure order. The Secretary- General concluded by stating that the Council was seeking assistance from all those who support peace and human rights to intervene and stop the Israeli measures imposed on Palestinian universities.
Educational consequences of the closure of schools
In his report of 23 April 1992 on the closure of schools in the occupied territories, the Director of the UNRWA-UNESCO Department of Education provided the following information:
(a) Since the onset of the Intifada in December 1987, UNRWA-UNESCO elementary and preparatory schools in the occupied territory have lost an average of 38 per cent of their school days annually, through closures, curfews, general strikes, and other disruptions. Losses continued into academic year 1991/1992. From September 1991 through March 1992, 18.8 per cent of school days have been lost in the West Bank and 11.7 per cent in Gaza.
(b) In 1991/1992, selected agency schools in Gaza, in which 4,136 pupils are enrolled, have to date been particularly affected by military closure. From February through early April 1992, UNRWA-UNESCO was able to provide these pupils with face-to-face teaching, which took place in mosques and in private places in the vicinity of pupils’ residences. In Gaza, a considerable body of self- learning materials has been developed by education department staff, over the past two years for use in emergency situations, to fill part of the gap created by inaccessible classrooms. Instruction was conducted according to organized timetables, by UNRWA-UNESCO teachers who had been trained to educate pupils - in or out of schools. Pupil attendance was remarkably high: no less than 95 per cent.
(c) Recent analysis by UNRWA-UNESCO staff of the results of the prolonged school closures of academic year 1989/1990 in UNRWA-UNESCO schools in the occupied territories serve to document some of the resulting academic damage. For example, pupils in selected West Bank UNRWA-UNESCO schools (which had been subject to the highest number of closures in 1989/1990, i.e. 67 to 100 closure days) in general performed much more poorly on UNRWA-UNESCO prepared standardized achievement tests than pupils in selected West Bank UNRWA-UNESCO schools least affected by closures (33 closure days or less). UNRWA-UNESCO field education staff used the study’s more detailed analyses of skills and weaknesses to develop remediation lessons and materials, to help restore pupil performance.
(d) UNRWA-UNESCO is concerned about the psychological damage to many West Bank UNRWA pupils, damage which has manifested itself in learning and discipline problems. In view of these problems, UNRWA has assigned five school councillors to Gaza and four to the West Bank.
(e) The four UNRWA training centres in the occupied territories also continue to be affected by losses of educational time. The losses in 1990/1991 were severe, caused in part by curfews and closures related to the Gulf crisis. These have had a ripple effect on the 1991/1992 academic year. The three West Bank Centres (Ramallah Men’s, Ramallah Women’s, and Kalandia) did not conclude their 1990/1991 programme until 31 October 1991, and they were only able to do so because for several months they had worked through normal vacations and had added two periods per day to the normal training schedule. The Gaza Training Centre, which had lost 132 days from September 1990 through June 1991, was able to finish its 1990/1991 programme by the end of August 1991. The exception was a new 1990/1991 industrial electronics course which did not conclude until December 1991.
In the 1991/1992 academic year (to date), educational time losses in the four centres have been less severe than in the 1988-1991 periods.