Right to education or right to future for the Palestinian youth?

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is an obvious obstacle to the development of the West Bank. This is a fact. Checkpoints are an impediment to the free movement of people especially workers and a barrier to the movement of goods, squeezing trade within the region. The Palestinians are deprived from rights among the most basic, this is a well-known fact. However, there is a right that is often denied, which is hardly taken into account: the right to education.

Section 13C of 1966 International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural rights highlights that « Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means (..) ». However, this is a duty that the Palestinian Authority can not meet. Students as teachers are sometimes detained and are heavily affected by movement restrictions. Indeed, most of them daily cross checkpoints where they can be blocked at any moment to go to university. In addition to problems related to courses attendance, students and teachers are regularly victims of physical and psychological abuses during their journeys. In some cases the weight  of such a stress has a negative impact on their ability to complete their studies and in other cases this simply pushes students to put and end to their education.

The impact of the Israeli occupation on education is dramatic but not only as a violation of individual rights. Indeed, education is the basis for any developed and balanced society and more particularly for the establishment of strong elite and middle class, which are the key for democratic regimes. The repercussion of the current situation will be felt both in the short and long term. Opposing the right to education in Palestine simply means compromising the chances for Palestinians to achieve consistent and consolidated society and State. Preventing students, teachers and researchers to conduct the career they intend condemns Palestine to an unpromising future. Moreover, this issue affects 185 000 Palestinians currently studying in higher education (4.9% of the population). The Palestinian Territories include twelve universities, nine in the West Bank, three in the Gaza Strip and thirty polytechnic, community and university institutes.

Facing this backdrop, the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy in Nablus An-Najah University*, in partnership with Birzeit University, launched in 2004 a Campaign for the Right to Education in order to generate an international awareness of such a violation. The campaign’s managers gather evidence from students, publish scholarly articles, support students’ initiatives for the promotion and awareness of a right to education in Palestine and cooperate with international institutions and local organizations. Their main concern is now the recognition and protection of this right to education in Palestine and the training of the generation that will soon lead the Palestinian Authority. This is a matter of emergency.

Luce Ricard


*The UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy, established through an agreement between the Director General of UNESCO and the President of An- Najah University in Nablus in June 1997, aims at promoting an integrated system of research, information and documentation in the field of Human Rights and Democracy in Palestine within the University and to provide a wider and improved visibility of activities related to Human rights in the Palestinian society.


To learn more about universities in Palestine, see the website of the French General Consulate in Jerusalem (in French).