Al-Jazeera, December 10, 2007
Filmmakers: Tom Evans and George Azar
Teachers working for months without pay, a chronic overcrowding in the classrooms, and students at risk each day from imprisonment and perhaps worse – welcome to the typical education experience in a Palestinian school.
Witness presents a series of three films taking a close look at the extraordinary difficulties and challenges that two ordinary Palestinian schools face. While poverty is widespread throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Nablus is one of the worst-hit areas because of the decreasing range of employers and the limited number of opportunities.
Hobbled by the Palestinians’ diminishing purchasing power and by Israeli security closures that have isolated Nablus and its merchants from the rest of the West Bank, hundreds of employees have been fired this year alone. According to the Mayor of Nablus, about 70 per cent of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, but the Palestinian Authority and local government have virtually no funds to give the poor. Astonishingly, despite these poverty levels, almost 90 per cent of children in Nablus go on to university.
But the education system is cracking under the weight of the crisis. More than a million Palestinian students face daily risks ranging from Israeli roadblocks to imprisonment and even death. Witness goes into the classrooms and corridors of two schools to gauge the situation.
Mahmoud Awemleh and Najla Yousif, maths and science secondary school teachers, do their best to teach and inspire their pupils, while trying themselves to survive the challenges of life in Nablus.
Osaid writes his end-of-year exams which he missed while in an Israeli prison. The schools’ teachers anxiously await pay day, wondering if their salaries will come through this month or not. Meanwhile tragic pandemonium breaks out when Israeli soldiers launch a nearby raid to root out militants. This series provides a rare glimpse into the daily lives of those trying to educate, and be educated, under occupation.
Part One: Nablus: Learning on the Frontline
Part Two: Nablus: Learning Under Siege
Part Three: Nablus: Learning to Die