National Literacy Week
The graphic of this poster features a young girl holding aloft a book with a smiling sun on its cover. The sun is echoed again in the background, reinforcing the connection between literacy and illumination. The caption reads, “Raise the Literacy Levels of Palestinian Society.”
High literacy rates among Palestinians are remarkable given that many Palestinian children study in sub-standard schools with woefully inadequate textbooks, curricula, and other educational resources, and given that many Palestinian schools are in war zones.
Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) said this about the Palestinian attitude towards education:
Source: “Frightened and Deprived” — International Herald Tribune, October 9, 2002
Though the overall attitude of Palestinians toward education is very progressive, literacy rates vary between girls and boys, rural and urban settings, the camps and the towns, and Christian and Muslim communities. The fact that this poster features a girl is probably no accident but rather intended to promote the education of female children; literacy rates among rural Palestinian women are the lowest of any sector of the population.
A poster such as this one would have been an anomaly in the Occupied Territories ten or twenty years ago. Today, the idea of universal access to education — primary, secondary, and post-secondary — is a given in Palestinian society.
Questions for A New
1) How has the Israeli occupation affected Palestinian education, from primary school through the university level?
2) How do Palestinian literacy rates compare to Israeli literacy rates? How do they compare to literacy rates among Jewish communities in the pre-independence Diaspora?
3) How do Palestinian attitudes towards education, including the education of women, compare to attitudes in other Arab countries?
4) In 2002 the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) issued a groundbreaking report entitled: The Arab Human Development Report. This is the first-ever comprehensive report on the Arab world’s developmental history. Significantly, it was compiled by a team of Arab specialists in education, technology, health, poverty, and other development issues. It has been widely praised for its unflinching criticisms of Arab governments. In terms of its findings and recommendations, how does the Palestinian Authority fare in terms of its commitment to the advancement of women in society, especially with regard to access to education?
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