Literacy rate in Palestine one of highest in the world

Demonstration in Hebron outside the UN offices last week against the US cut to UNRWA funding
Demonstration in Hebron outside the UN offices last week against the US cut to UNRWA funding

On the occasion of International Literacy Day, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) published a report last week on the illiteracy rate in Palestine and confirmed that it is one of the lowest in the world.

The report said that the illiteracy rate in 2017 was 3.3% (7,898 illiterate) in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip refugee camps run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which currently faces a financial crisis following the United States’ decision to cut all funding, which may affect its educational programmes, compared to 3.1% (67,324 illiterate) in urban areas, and 4.8% (20,228 illiterate) in rural localities.

According to the definition by the United Nations for Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), an illiterate person identifies as one who is unable to read and write with understanding a simple statement related to one’s daily life.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics reported that the illiteracy rate among individuals of 15 years and above in Arab countries was 24.8% (about 64.6 million illiterate) in 2016. For males, 17.4% (23.7 million illiterate) compared to 32.8% for females (40.9 million illiterate).

For the same year, the rate was 13.8% (about 750.1 million illiterate) in the world among the same age group: for males, 10.2% (277.2 million illiterate) compared to 17.3% for females (472.9 million illiterate).

PCBS’s report said that the illiteracy rates among the Palestinian population aged 15 years old and above, fell in the period between 1997 and 2017 from 13.9% to 3.3%. For males, the rate fell from 7.8% in 1997 to 1.7% in 2017, while for females it fell from 20.3% to 5.0% over the same period.

The report also said that 95,450 were illiterate in 2017 (1.7% for males, or 24,590 illiterate, compared to 5.0% for females, or 70,860 illiterate), and divided into 3.6% in the West Bank (62,736 illiterate) and 3.0% in Gaza Strip (32,714 illiterate).

The illiteracy rate among older persons aged 65 years and above was 34.6% (52,165 illiterate) in 2017. The rate was 4.5% in the 45-64 year age group (24,656 illiterate), 1.3% in the 30-44 year age group (10,068 illiterate) and 0.6% among young people aged between 15-29 years (8,561 illiterate) in the same year.

The illiteracy rate among rural localities in 2017 reached 4.8% (20,228 illiterate), while it scored 3.3% in the refugee camps (7,898 illiterate) and 3.1% (67,324 illiterate) in urban areas. In 2017, the male illiteracy rate was highest in rural localities, followed by urban areas and refugee camps respectively. Female illiteracy rate was highest in rural localities, followed by refugee camps and urban areas respectively.

In 2017, the highest illiteracy rate among the Palestinian population aged 15 years and above was in Jericho and the Jordan Valley district, scoring 5.5% (1,623 illiterate), followed by Tubas and the Northern Valley district, scoring 4.7% (1,808 illiterate).

Additionally, the lowest rate was in the Jerusalem and Gaza districts with only 2.3% (5,752 illiterate in Jerusalem and 8,778 illiterate in Gaza).

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, in response to the report by PCBS, urged support for UNRWA to help it continue with its educational programmes for tens of thousands of Palestinian students.

Hamdallah said: ‘We are proud that the illiteracy rate in Palestine in 2017 is among the lowest in the world.’

He pointed out that the Palestinian government implemented many education programmes for adults and opened classrooms to combat illiteracy among the adult Palestinian population.

Hamdallah wrote a Facebook post regarding the programme: ‘We have launched the National Strategy for Adult Education, which is considered the first of its kind in the Arab world, in order to lower illiteracy and achieve the two goals of education for all and education for life.’

• The Palestinian Minister of Health, Jawad Awwad, confirmed that the Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, decided to transfer funds to help support East Jerusalem hospitals after the United States administration’s decision.

Last week, the US Trump administration announced it is to cancel more than $20 million in aid to Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem and ‘investing it in other priorities.’

Haaretz reported that ‘the budget cut could cause harm to at least five hospitals in East Jerusalem, including Augusta Victoria hospital near Mt. Scopus and the St. John Eye Hospital, which is the main provider of eye treatments for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.’

Awwad said in a statement on Sunday evening that Hamdallah’s decision to fund Palestinian hospitals is new practical proof of the Palestinian government’s assertion that Jerusalem hospitals are part of the Palestinian governmental hospitals.

He added that the decision, made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, to transfer funds to the hospitals is confirmation that the government will not allow for this type of ‘abuse’ of East Jerusalem hospitals.

Hamdallah announced the Palestinian government’s decision and said that Abbas instructed the government to cover the deficit in the budget of East Jerusalem hospitals following the US decision.

‘We will continue to meet the basic and urgent needs of our people on every inch of our land. Despite the deficit, the challenges, the sanctions and the drop in foreign aid by 70%, we will nevertheless manage and we will not trade our national rights for political money,’ Hamdallah noted.

Awwad also stressed the importance of strengthening the steadfastness of Jerusalem hospitals, which are considered to be a major support to the holy city and to its people, and expressed gratitude to the Palestinian government to help prevent East Jerusalem hospitals from collapsing.

• The killing of a Palestinian young man by Israeli gunfire in the northern besieged Gaza Strip dominated the front page headlines in Palestinian Arabic dailies on Monday.

Al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida reported that Israeli forces killed Atef Muhammad Saleh, 32, purportedly while attempting to breach the border fence separating Gaza from Israel to the east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. The army is withholding his body.

Al-Ayyam added that the man succumbed to his wounds several hours after being shot by Israeli forces.

It added that Israeli forces detained three Palestinians from Gaza purportedly for attempting to infiltrate into Israel.

Additionally, the dailies highlighted Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s decision to close the financial gap arising from the US administration’s decision to cut off over $20 million for hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida and al-Quds added in this regard that the Palestinian National Council condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision targeting hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Commenting on the US administration’s earlier decision to stop $360 million for the UN relief agency, al-Ayyam reported sources from within UNRWA warning that cutting off aid threatens two million Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

Furthermore, the dailies said that over 200 Israeli Jewish settlers, including Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, forced their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Al-Quds explained that 230 settlers and 73 Mormons from the US stormed the holy site, while al-Ayyam said that a total of 258 settlers did so.

They added that an Israeli police officer was caught carrying a bottle of wine while touring the holy site.

Al-Quds also reported that Israeli police detained nine Palestinians immediately after exiting the holy site.

Moreover, al-Quds reported Deputy Chairman of UNRWA’s Employees Union Amal al-Batsh stating: ‘We are back to square one after UNRWA reneged on understandings.’

Batsh apparently made these remarks after the UNRWA failed to honour an agreement on resolving the issue of employees threatened with dismissal.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki delivered a letter from President Mahmoud Abbas to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un while meeting the latter in Pyongyang.

According to al-Hayat al-Jadida, Abbas briefed Kim about the measures taken by the US administration to liquidate the Palestinian question.

On the other hand, al-Hayat al-Jadida opted to highlight President Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks as he conferred the State Appreciation Prize for Literature, Arts and Humanities upon a number of authors at his office in Ramallah.

He commended the Palestinian people for continuing to be creative despite all difficulties and hurdles they encounter.

Regarding intra-Palestinian talks to achieve reconciliation in Cairo, al-Quds quoted well-informed Palestinian sources saying that it was Israel that has hampered the efforts to achieve reconciliation.

It also reported member of Hamas political bureau Maher Obeid announcing that a Hamas delegation is scheduled to arrive in Cairo after September 15 for talks on reconciliation and ‘ceasefire’ with Israel.