UNESCO will support Palestinian university students from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalized areas to pursue their studies by providing them with access to essential course materials, including text and reference books, computer and internet facilities, following the signing between the Director-General and the Ambassador of Palestine to UNESCO of a Plan of Operation for a project funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on 4 June 2013.
The 36-month project will establish or support libraries that contain vital course materials for students in 12 districts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, benefiting some 12,000 students per year. Each library will be staffed by a local coordinator and a librarian supported by volunteers from the targeted communities, and be equipped with an Internet terminal, a printer, photocopier and computers, enabling students to search for information free of charge. In the framework of this project, an advocacy strategy to promote the right to education will be also developed and disseminated through a national campaign.
“The fact that this project will support disadvantaged university students is extremely important because it will not only have an impact on social inclusion, but also on social mobility,” said Director-General Irina Bokova, expressing her appreciation to Saudi Arabia through the Kingdom’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Mr Ziad Aldrees. “I see also see this project as a sign of the sustainability of our work to support the capacity of Palestine to improve the quality of education and to promote equity,” referring to educational projects already funded through the Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People, and a USD 2.9 million agreement concluded in March 2013 with the latter.
Reiterating gratitude to Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Elias Sanbar of Palestine described the project “as a fundamental act. It is a way for us to say that we make the choice of culture and knowledge. It is a bet on the future that carries a symbolic dimension beyond the project itself.”
The President of the Palestine National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Yahya Yakhlef, thanked UNESCO for its support, affirming that “education and culture are bridges towards world security and peace.”
The project builds on the initial experience of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), which has enabled the establishment of student libraries since 2005. UNESCO will work with HDIP to expand this network, support capacity development activities, and implement an advocacy strategy to promote the right to education in accordance with international instruments including the Convention against Discrimination in Education.