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April 24th 2013 During a press conference in Ramallah: Launching the Global Action Week Activities Every Child Needs a Teacher – "The Teacher Deserves"

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

The Palestinian Coalition for Safe School Environment, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and UNRWA Education Program organized today, 18th of April 2013, a press conference in the headquarters of the Ministry of Education in Ramallah to announce the launching of the Global Action Week in Palestine under the title "Every Child Needs a qualified and supported Teacher – The Teacher Deserves". Participation of Palestine in GAW 2013 comes as a contribution of the Palestinian State and civil society in the global efforts for reform of education and achievement of the EFA goals-Dakar-2000.

Palestinian Minister of Education: 70% of the Palestinian teachers are not completely qualified according to international standards

Lamis Alami, the Palestinian Minister of Education, who participated in the press conference, stated that Palestine has achieved great parts of the EFA goals. For example, 93% of children are enrolled in schools; more than 50% of them are female students. In addition, the illiteracy rate in Palestine is less than 6%. MoE is also achieving a huge progress in developing its programs for increasing quality of education, adult learning and early childhood care and education, the Minister added.

Alami mentioned that MoE has given since its establishment in 1994 special attention to providing education as a basic human right for citizens. It has been working on a quality and safe education system for the Palestinian children, in spite of the extraordinary economic circumstances, continuous occupation and conflict, unstable security conditions and extreme measures by the Israeli occupation in Jerusalem.

The Minister of Education stated also that the ministry's strategic plan focuses on providing quality education services through specific developmental programs in curriculum, extracurricular activities, school infrastructure, children's wellbeing and teacher qualification and professional development. In addition, the ministry is working within a policy for inclusion and comprehensive educational services. Within this framework, teachers' needs and rights are put in a high priority for the ministry, because they are the facilitators of learning processes. These efforts come in line with the vision of the GCE and its global action week for this year, which focuses on the importance of teachers in learning and lives of children.

However, there are needs and demands that are required in order to achieve this vision. The Minister of Education mentioned that 70% of the Palestinian teachers are not completely qualified according to international standards. This puts a huge responsibility on the ministry. Moreover, Alami demanded the international community to contribute to protection of teachers from the occupation's violations such as school attacks and humiliation of teachers on checkpoints. 

Director of UNRWA Education Program: Education is a right, responsibility and duty.

In his return, Mohannad Baidas, the director of UNRWA education program in Palestine stated that there is a true partnership between the UNRWA and Ministry of Education. But this partnership needs to prove that both institutions put education of the Palestinian children as a first priority, and are willing to support this right fully despite all challenges and obstacles for this sector.

Baidas pointed out the qualitative development in the UNRWA education program after establishment of the Palestinian Authority. There was a partnership in policy making and planning for strategies which aim at enhancing quality of education and access of children for this education.

UNRWA's participation in the Global Action Week, Baidas added, comes as a result of partnership with local and international education organizations. He stated that education for children is a right that entails responsibilities and duties on us, as individuals, organizations local and international.

Mmebe rof the International Board of GCE and Representative of Arab Campaign for all: in order to achieve quality education for all, we need to hire more teachers who are qualified and supported.

Refaat Sabbah, as a representative of the International Board of GCE, and ACEA, stated that the importance of the Global Action Week for this year comes from the question: Since 2000, what are the achievements towards realizing EFA goals? Indicators show that we still need to make so many steps, despite the progress sin some aspects in some of the regions.

131 million children are still outside schools, about one third of them are children with disabilities. There are millions of children who go to schools but don’t receive quality education. 1 child out of 6 doesn’t know how to read and write, 1 woman out of 5 doesn't know how to read or write, and 250 million children out of 650 millions don’t have the necessary skills in reading and writing. All these failures are related to lack of political will.

Sabbah added that the problem of our educational systems is in their contribution to building of all these skills. In order to achieve quality education, we need to hire more teachers who are qualified and who are supported. It has been proved that employment of unqualified teachers has disastrous consequences on the quality of education. Also, lack of decent life (economic and social) conditions for teachers is a dangerous factor. Therefore, there is an urgent need to increase teachers' salaries and enhance work conditions in order to ensure decent life and socio-economic status for teachers.

The GCE Board Member clarified that international donors are not meeting the needs and priorities of countries that receive funding in education. 23 bilateral donors specify less than 3% of their financial support to the basic education sector.

Sabbah also mentioned a number of recommendations presented by the GCE addressing: developing high level national standards of qualification for teachers; ensuring pre-service training and on-job development; ensuring decent salaries and excluding salaries from sanctions on teachers; enhancing school leadership and increasing participation of parents and local communities in the educational development. The recommendations included also allocating at least 20% of national budgets for education and 50% of these budgets to basic education. He demanded donor agencies to meet their commitments towards education, and to dedicate more support for developmental programs in education.

National Coordinator of the Palestinian Coalition for Safe School Environment: the slogan of this year's GAW is derived from the suffering of Palestinian teachers and their legitimate demands.

Omar Assaf, the National Coordinator of the Palestinian Coalition for Safe School Learning, mentioned that the slogan of the campaign for this year is "Every Child Needs a qualified and supported Teacher – The Teacher Deserves". It is an international slogan, but it reflects also the suffering of the Palestinian teachers, and is derived from their legitimate demand sin their struggle. It is common known that the Palestinian teachers have been involved in a protest movement and strikes since months. They demand improving their work conditions and their economic status and increasing PA's budget allocated for education.

Assaf added that work conditions for public schools' teachers and teachers in kindergarten are still under the minimum standards and levels required in order to enable them of high quality performance in teaching. For example, although the MoE implemented many steps for teacher qualification, there is a high percentage of teachers lack the sufficient qualification and training. Lack of qualification is indeed reflected on outcomes of the educational process and quality of graduates.

Assaf highlighted the great importance of improving teachers work conditions and socio-economic status. The teacher is the one who assists students to be successful professionals in various fields. However, the teacher's profession is the given the least appreciation. A simple comparison between a teacher and an accountant who graduated from the same university and work for the government would show us the low appreciation for teachers in salaries and in possibilities for development. It is enough to know that the percentage of teachers' bonus allowance is 30% and engineers' is 60%. Assaf shed light in his speech also on the difficult status of teachers which forces them to have two careers, regardless of working in situations that don’t preserve their dignity.

It is worth mentioning that the press conference was attended by deputy minister of education, directors of the ministry of education, a number of media agencies' representatives, NGOs' representatives and activists.