Education is considered as an important factor in enhancing a person’s opportunities in social and economic mobility. However, leaving school at an early age remains a problem, to which poverty and being female are generally associated with. To further analyze this issue, the Psycho-Social Counseling Center for Women (PSCCW) conducted a diagnosis on the obstacles faced by girls living in six localities in area C in Bethlehem -Kisan, Al-Rashayida, Al-Meniah- and Hebron -Zif, Ma’en, Al-Bweeb- in their attempts to pursue their school education. Areas categorized as area C are fully controlled by the Israeli colonial authority, and due to the lack of local institutions and organisations in the target communities, little information is published about them.
Although school dropouts in the West Bank are not restricted to female students -as per the data collected in the six localities, male students’ rates of dropout in secondary education are even higher-, the purpose of this study was to specifically identify the factors leading to girls’ dropout of schools. The diagnosis involved an academic researcher of the Bethlehem University, the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE), the Directorates of Education in Bethlehem and Yatta, and community organizations such as village councils and fathers’ councils.
Thus, between April and June 2018, 30 interviews and 14 focus groups with teachers, school principals, parents and students (primary and secondary education) were conducted in the six localities. Building upon these consultations, the diagnosis brought out several observations:
- The communities residing in the targeted localities experience severe lack of services and institutions due to the refusal of Israeli authorities to hand out permit applications for construction. For instance, one of the main complaints expressed by the inhabitants is the lack of kindergartens in four of six targeted localities.
- The school buildings are generally not well structured, and inadequate school conditions are presented as being part of the problems which affect the level of concentration and lead to poor academic performance. For instance, caravans or shipping containers are turned into classrooms, and poor lighting and ventilation as well as a high level of noise and lack of a playground add to the already existing troubles.
- Many people in the target communities rely on agricultural and herding activities and all family members, including children, have an important role in securing the family survival. This leads to high rates of school non-attendance during specific months (i.e. harvest time of cucumbers ). Lack of parents’ care to supervise their children’s study at home was also mentioned as a common cause for low academic achievements among students in these communities.
- Students mentioned other difficulties as reasons of dropout such as the distance of school, lack of transportation, fights between relatives and early marriages.
- The majority of parents also didn’t complete their school education. However, while men could find some manual jobs and integrate in the poor job market, women’s opportunities are restricted to being housewives catering for large families and working in agricultural and grazing activities as part of the unpaid domestic labour.
The video below features A. S., an inspiring young lady who managed to finish her high education despite many obstacles including social norms and traditions forcing girls to marry at early age.
To provide an answer to this situation, the PSCCW has carried out since August 2018 a field project aimed at increasing girls’ access to education and reducing their dropout from schools in the six targeted communities. This project provides several activities in cooperation with the teachers and administrative staff in each school, such as writing and drawing competitions, organizing visits to universities, implementing dialogue between mothers and daughters to talk about the importance of pursuing an education, the renovation of the Ma’en school playground, and an advocacy campaign to demand a bus service to Al-Meniah and Kisan. Other activities include the production and dissemination of short videos, and the organization of raising awareness workshops for fathers and brothers.
This initiative is part of the field projects developed by the local clusters of gender equality actors© set up by the Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation since 2015. It is part of the "Reinforcing the capacity of equality actors" project, funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and coordinated by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). This action is also part of the project "Developing women’s empowerment", labeled by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.