- Title: WEST BANK: West Bank centre tackles adult female illiteracy
- Date: 24th March 2014
- Summary: QALANDIYA REFUGEE CAMP, WEST BANK (RECENT - MARCH 18, 2014) (REUTERS) STREET MINARET OF MOSQUE ENTRANCE TO SCHOOL FOR TEACHING ADULTS DRAWING ON WALL WITH ENGLISH AND ARABIC WRITING, READING "THE SOCIAL REHABILITATION ASSOCIATION" WOMEN SITTING IN CLASSROOM DURING LESSON TEACHER AND STUDENTS IN CLASSROOM WOMAN SITTING IN CLASS WITH A CHILD CHILD IN PUSHCHAIR TEACHER WRITING THE DATE IN ARABIC ON WHITE BOARD WOMAN DURING LESSON TWO WOMEN SITTING AND WRITING DURING THE LESSON WOMAN WRITING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) TEACHER AT THE SCHOOL FOR ADULTS, IBTIHAJ HAMAD, SAYING: "Here they learned how to read and write. Spelling is difficult for them but there are many who have received very good grades in spelling, reading and writing. They have benefited greatly and they love it." WOMAN READING FROM HAND-WRITTEN PAPER PAPER (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) TEACHER AT THE SCHOOL FOR ADULTS, IBTIHAJ HAMAD, SAYING: "What I love about this job is that they benefit and they want to come here and learn because they now have ambitions to obtain the Tawjihi (matriculation exam), and go to university, especially the young women." THREE WOMEN SITTING NEXT TO EACH OTHER ARABIC BOOKS ON THE SHELF BOOK ON SHELF (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) STUDENT, FATEN ABU FARRA, SAYING: "Ever since I got married, I've been wanting to learn. I went to the Ministry of Education in my hometown, and they told me to come here." HAMAD STANDING OVER OLDER STUDENT OLDER WOMAN WRITING STUDENT ZAKIYA AFFAN HOLDING PAPER AND TALKING AFFAN POINTING AT PAPER WITH PENCIL (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) STUDENT, ZAKIYA AFFAN, SAYING: "I would like to take the Tawjihi (matriculation exam), and enter university. This is my dream, to take the Tawjihi and enrol in university, this is something I wish for from all my heart." MORE OF LESSON WOMEN SITTING DURING LESSON HAMAD TALKING VARIOUS OF LESSON
- Embargoed: 8th April 2014 13:00
- Location: West bank
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Education
- Reuters ID: LVA1NN5L0EHPNM1JOKXWY90XN6SE
- Story Text: Through the narrow alleys of the impoverished Qalandiya refugee camp, half a dozen women with books and pencils sit in a classroom to learn how to read and write.
The Social Rehabilitation Association is one of a dozen centres in the occupied West Bank for teaching illiterate adults.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), 4.1 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza is illiterate, down from 13.9 percent in 1997 - one of the lowest rates in the region.
Illiteracy among Palestinian women, however, is three and half times higher than among males, with 6.4 percent of women unable to read or write, compared to 1.8 percent of men.
Experts say despite evident signs of modernisation, Palestinian society remains largely patriarchal and conservative, and women, especially in poor areas, are often forced by their families to drop out of school to care for younger siblings or to get married.
In total, some 104,487 people are illiterate, with higher rates in rural areas and refugee camps, and amongst those aged 65 and older.
Ibtihaj Hamad, a teacher at the Qalandiya centre says though the majority are women there are men too, who have dropped out of school for various economic and social reasons, who come wanting to learn.
Teaching adults, however, can be very difficult and many students end up dropping out of the programme.
Many other students, however, are highly motivated and are able to make progress in their education.
"Here they learned how to read and write. Spelling is difficult for them but there are many who have received very good grades in spelling, reading and writing. They have benefited greatly and they love it," Hamad said.
Young women, she says, are especially ambitious.
"What I love about this job is that they benefit and they want to come here and learn because they now have ambitions to obtain the Tawjihi, and go to university, especially the young women," she said.
Observers say Palestinians have made strides in terms of the organisational structure of their educational system. It consists of ten years of free, compulsory, basic education, followed by two years of secondary academic or vocational education. Students must then sit for take the matriculation exam called Tawjihi.
And unlike some countries in the region, female enrolment in basic and secondary school education is as high as male enrolment.
A third of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in university, and women make up over half of university students.
Despite this, women remain underrepresented in the workforce and on average earn less than men.
Faten Abu Farra, from the West Bank town of al-Ram, says she dropped out of school at a young age to get married. She says she was already very weak in school, and had difficulties reading and writing.
She now has a young son who she brings with her to the class and her learning has improved tremendously.
"Ever since I got married, I've been wanting to learn. I went to the Ministry of Education in my hometown, and they told me to come here," Abu Farra said.
Qalandiya resident Zakiya Affan says she lived in a very conservative and poor household, and had to drop out of school at young age. She could not read or write as an adult.
"I would like to take the Tawjihi and enter university. This is my dream, to take the Tawjihi and enrol in university, this is something I wish for from all my heart."
According to UNESCO high rates of illiteracy remains a serious problem in many Arab countries, and women represent two-thirds of 48 million illiterate people.
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