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April 30th 2013 National Round Table in Ramallah: Politicians’ Responsibility towards Education and Teachers’ Rights

National News from Palestinian Territory by Palestinian Coalition for Safe School Environment

Within activities of the Global Action Week in Palestine, the Palestinian Coalition for Safe School Environment organized a national round table with leaders and representatives of political parties, unions, and coalition’s member organizations on 21st April, 2013 in Ramallah Culture Palace. The round table was organized to discuss the title “Political power’s responsibility towards education and teachers’ rights”.

Representatives of different political parties and alliances participated in the round table including representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The round table was opened by a documentary film about teachers' work conditions that was produced by the Palestinian Coalition. Then, Muna Nammoura, member of the Palestinian Women's Union and Monjed Abu Habash, Director of Palestinian Agriculture Relief Committees (both members of the Palestinian Coalition for Safe School Environment) presented a brief history of establishment and development of the Coalition and its participation in the GCE.

Omar Assaf, national coordinator of the Coalition, talked about the bad work conditions of Palestinian teachers and low quality teacher education programs. Assaf gave a background about the context in which the campaign of this year is taking place. He highlighted the importance of developing teachers' working conditions and qualification programs in order to achieve reform in education. Assaf stated that teachers' rights and qualification are national issues that should be addressed by the political parties and powers.

Nadeem Sami, the board member of Teachers' Union, presented the protest movement teachers have been implementing in Palestine in order to achieve their rights and beteer social and economic status in the Palestinian society. Sami called political parties and representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council to put pressure on the PA to increase budget allocated to educational development and to ensure recognizing teaching as a profession.

Moheeb Awwad, Legislative Council's member for Fateh political party and president of its education committee in the legislative council, stated that teachers' demands are legitimate, and that they have a right to achieve all these demands. He added that this is also a national responsibility in order to scale up education in Palestine and make teacher sable of accomplishing their duties in a full way. He mentioned that the education committee in the legislative council is following up on the teachers' movement and demands, and supports these demands. He assured that Fateh puts education in the core of its vision for the state building. Thus, Fateh focuses on schools' infrastructure, curriculum and learning environment. But Fateh also focuses on teachers' work conditions and supports their needs through lobbying for government's commitment to its educational duties. Awwad stated also that Fateh will demand the government to accomplish its agreements with the Teachers' Union.

Wasel Abu Yousif, member of consecutive committee for Palestine's Liberation Front, stated that efforts of the GCE, the national coalition and teachers' union are very important at this phase of Palestinian teachers' protest movement. He added that education is a core issue for political and national parties because education is the key factor in development for the Palestinian society. As long as education is a very important aspect for Palestinians, Yousif added, the PA has a duty and responsibility to provide for teachers better work conditions and social and economic status. He suggested establishing a national higher education council.

Mahmoud Muslih, Legislative Council's member for Hamas legislative council's group, said that seeking educational reform and enhancing teachers' work conditions and status require that all of us be honest about the degree to which the current situation is critical. He added that Palestinian teachers need and deserve better qualification especially in aspects of building their relationship with students and with educational leadership and management of classrooms. He said, teachers need a better qualification to adopt modern teaching methodologies that are learner-centered and more democratic. He supported the idea of establishing a higher council for education, but mentioned that this step alone is not enough. More efforts are needed to enhance community participation.

Saleh Raafat, member of consecutive committee of PLO and vice president of Palestinian Democratic Alliance, assured that education has been the major reason behind nations' development. Similarly, Palestinian national parties should focus on education in order to achieve liberation. He said that Palestinian educational system still applies very old laws and procedures that go back to the 60s of the past century. Therefore, the priority now for Palestinians is to reform and amend their laws in order to apply a modern and progressive law for education. He added that the government is required to increase education effectiveness through increasing efforts towards teachers' qualification and through accomplishing justice for teachers.

Reda Awad-Allah, member of political office of Palestinian People's Party, said that political parties should take the responsibility of reform in education. She added that enhancing teachers' status is a priority in the desired reform. She also considered the teacher to be a major factor in building the state. She reaffirmed that education should be recognized as a profession.

The round table included interventions by other representatives also such as Sahar Qawasmeh, legislative council member; Hilmi Hamdan, representative of Health Committees' Union; Mashaal Bargothi, member of Teachers' Struggle Movement; and Mohammad Abu Al-Khair, member of Legislative council. In addition a group of academic personnel and professionals took part in the discussions including Dr. Joultan Hejazi, Dr. Fareed Murra; Odeh Zahran and Abdul-Kareem Zyadeh.

In conclusion, the participants agreed on the following recommendations:

  1. Comprehensive reform in education
  2. Balance between rights and duties for teachers
  3. Establishing a national higher educational council
  4. Developing the civil service law in order to improve work conditions for teachers and increase their salaries
  5. Political parties should give more efforts and attention to their responsibilities towards education and towards amending educational laws and reform education
  6. Activating the role of the legislative council in making th eneccessary policies to develop education in Palestine
  7. Amend and develop retirement law
  8. Increasing political and community pressure to reform education
  9. Coordination and complementary efforts between political parties and parents' councils
  10. Developing schools infrastructure and ensuring existence of all necessary equipments and laboratories for quality education
  11. Increasing government' budget allocated for education