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The tawjihi are country-wide exams held at the completion of secondary school, and the mark obtained determines whether or not a student will gain entry to university, and into which courses and programmes. This year, 87,611 Palestinian students sat the exams, and some 62% passed. What lies ahead for them?
The conditions for students living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem are difficult enough, but the 37,453 students from Gaza had also to contend with double-shift schools, a critical lack of computers, laboratories, and scientific equipment, and power cuts of up to 18 hours a day for most of this year. Many of these resources could have been provided, but for international donors’ reluctance to buy on the local market, as Gaza Assistant Deputy Minister of Education Dr Ziyad Thabet explains.
Despite these challenges, many Gazan students passed the tawjihi, and passed well.
“We co-operate and co-ordinate with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education in Ramallah so that the students in Gaza and the West Bank have the same examinations, and we communicate with our colleagues in the West Bank in preparing the questions. There is a team in the West Bank and one in Gaza, and we agreed to release the results on the same day. The tawjihi is a good example of unity between the two parts of Palestine,” Dr Thabet told me.
But the unity does not extend to what happens next. Gaza students’ prospects once they leave school, even for the best of them, are severely limited not only by the illegal Israeli blockade, but also by lack of access to Palestinian Authority scholarships for university study.
“Scholarships from the Ministry of Education in Ramallah are only available to students from the West Bank,” Dr Thabet continued. “Students from Gaza can only attend local universities, or find alternatives through their own efforts.” He noted that Egypt was once a source of educational opportunity for Gazans, and hopes it will soon be so again.
The Gaza Ministry of Education, like their students, are equally determined not to let the Israeli blockade or its occupation stand in the way of creating a future for themselves and their country.
If the Arab Spring is to bear fruit for Palestine, it will have to fertilise these Gazan students’ hopes with real opportunities, and soon.