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Palestine: Fatah and Hamas take their fight into schools

August 24 should have seen the start of classes for pupils in Gaza’s government schools, but instead it was the beginning of a week-long strike called by the Fatah-led teachers’ union protesting the interference of Hamas in education. In this post, one blogger, a school pupil himself, gives us his perspective on the political fight getting in the way of his education.

In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the Palestine Teachers’ Union is one of the few remaining strongholds of Fatah, and is supported by Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah. It called a strike during the first week of the school year to protest the transfer of dozens of teachers, transfers which it claimed were made so that Hamas could install its supporters in key positions. Teachers were stuck in the middle of the conflict between Hamas, which controls the administration of Gaza, and the PA in Ramallah, which pays their salaries. They were threatened with having their salaries cut or being fired if they broke the strike, or if they accepted a promotion (indicating loyalty to Hamas); yet if they did strike then they risked being sacked by Hamas. While Hamas denied they were replacing staff, as soon as the strike started it brought in hundreds of new teachers; Hamas’ Education Minister estimated that 2,000 of the 9,000 government school teachers had been replaced.

Mutasharrid (‘homeless person’ or ‘vagrant’) is a pupil in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, and explains what happened during the first week of the school year:

- شو.. رايح بكرة ع المدرسة ؟
– لأ ، الأسبوع الأول إضراب للمعلمين
– والله؟ مين حكى .. ولشو الإضراب ؟
– إتحاد المعلمين أقرّ بإضراب مشان اللي بتعمله حماس بالتعليم
– أها.. و شو بتعمل حماس بالتعليم ؟
– نقل أساتذة ثانوية للإبتدائية وتعيين مدراء منها وفصل واعتقال و و
” الحالة الظاهرة : الظهور دون إتصال “
‘So, tomorrow you’re off to school?’
‘No, the first week there’s a teachers’ strike.’
‘Really? Who says? What’s the strike about?’
‘The teachers’ union has decided to strike because of what Hamas is doing to education.’
‘Aha…And what is Hamas doing to education?’
‘They’re moving head teachers from secondary schools to elementary schools, and appointing head teachers from amongst their own, and dismissing people, and arresting them, and…’

Status: No communication.

بصراحة أنا في حيرة من أمري ، من أين أبدأ وأنا لا أعرف بذات الوقت أين سأنتهي بموضوع غير واضح الأفق بتاتا … أنا طالب ثانوية عامة “توجيهي” ، وكغيري من الطلاب في أول يوم دراسي 24 / 8 كانت المدرسة قبلة لنا في ذاك اليوم ، وأقولها بصدق.. لا تحملني إلا رغبة إلى مدرستي التي ألفتها ، ومعلمين وزملاء أحببتهم و عايشتهم سنين ، اعتادوا علينا واعتدنا عليهم وكأننا “أسرة واحدة” ، وربما تكون هذه الكلمة مستهلكة جدا بوسائل الإعلام وبتنحكى
كثير .. بس أنا بعنيها فعلا
In truth I am totally confused; where can I begin, when at the same time I don’t know where I’ll end? It’s a subject that has decidedly unclear boundaries. … I am a tawjihi [final-year secondary school certificate] pupil, and like other pupils, on the first day of the academic year (24 August) the school was a qibla [the direction in which Muslims pray] for us, and I say that with all seriousness. Nothing sustained me but the yearning for my school which I loved, and for the teachers and other employees that I was fond of and had been with for years. They had got used to us, and we had got used to them, as if we were ‘one family’. Maybe this term is overused in the media and repeated a lot…but I really mean it.
تفاجأت بأرض الواقع لمّا وصلت المدرسة ، على ما يبدو إنه الإضراب حقيقي وناجح بنسبة كبيرة ، وهذا الشيء لمسته من وجود 5 معلمين فقط في مدرسة طاقمها التعليمي يتكون من أكثر من 20 معلم ، نظرت يمينا ويسارا .. كانت المدرسة فارغة إلا من عدة طلاب و “أناس غرباء” ، ظننت في البداية أنهم المعلمين الجدد ، لم أهتم بالأمر فعلا و .. مشيت للبيت عائدا ، ولم أرجع إلى هناك إلا بعد أسبوع .. أي بعد إنتهاء فترة الإضراب الرسمية حسب نقابة المعلمين – فرع رام الله !
I was surprised by the actual situation when I arrived at school. It seemed that the strike was real, and successful to a large degree, which I made out from the presence of just five teachers in a school whose normal teaching staff is more than 20 people. I looked right and left…The school was empty except for a number of pupils and some ‘strangers’. At first I thought they were new teachers, and I really didn’t pay much attention. I walked back home, and didn’t return until a week later – that is, after the official strike period as decreed by the Teachers’ Union (Ramallah branch!).
عرفنا فيما أن شرطة الحكومة المقالة اعتقلت مدير مدرستنا و فصلته ، ومنعته من ممارسة أي وظيفة في سلك التعليم وهو حتى أمس كان في مستشفى “ناصر” بخانيونس ولا أبالغ بحديثي عندما أقول أنه كان في حالة أشبه بـ “إنهيار عصبي” عندما زرناه أنا ومجموعة من الأصدقاء ، وحالته النفسية أسوأ مما كنت مهيئا نفسي لأن أراه ، كان مديرا لا يختلف اثنين على حكمته في إدارة مدرستنا لأكثر من 6 سنوات ، وكان مستوى المدرسة طوال السنوات الماضية من أفضل المستويات على مستوى دائرة خانيونس ، سواء بمجال التعليم أو بمجالات رياضية أو أخرى ..
Meanwhile we found out that the police of the deposed [Fatah] government arrested the head teacher of our school and dismissed him, and forbade him from working in the education sector. Until yesterday he was in Nasir hospital in Khan Yunis, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that he was in a state something like a nervous breakdown when I and some friends visited him. His mental state was worse that what I was prepared to see. He was a head teacher whose wisdom in managing our school for more than six years no one had ever disagreed with. Throughout the previous years the level of our school had been one of the highest in Khan Yunis, both in academic subjects and other areas like sports.
إلتزمنا بالمدرسة منذ 1/9 بشكل رسمي رغم المفاجآت التي تصدمنا منذ ذلك الحين وبشكل يومي ، بعضها “على سبيل المثال” : مدير مدرسة يحمل مسدسا و موظف من “الأمن الداخلي” يجوب ممرات مدرستنا بين الحين والآخر يتقن التحديق في عيوننا ، معلمين جدد أغلبهم متخرجين من كلية “الشريعة” ! وأحدهم حضر لنا كـ مدرس للرياضيات يطلب منا تحضير أول 20 صفحة من الكتاب في أول يوم لنا ! ، كانت المفآجأت أكبر من أن نستوعبها بهذه السرعة ، هل حقا يجب أن نتعامل مع الأمر كواقع ونبدأ بالتعايش فيه ؟ لا نعرف .. خصوصا في ظل المعركة الطاحنة بين نقابة رام الله و حكومة غزة ، فتلك .. تمدد الإضراب يوما عن الآخر وتهدد بقطع الرواتب ، وهذه تزيد المجاكرة و تتقن فنّ لي الأيدي جيدا ، و لا شيء سوى المزيد من التطوير بأساليب الردح والجرح والقدح ، ونحن؟ بين مطرقة رام الله وسنديان غزة نصلي لله أن ينظر في أمرنا قليلا
We officially went back to school on September 1, in spite of the surprises that have shocked us on a daily basis since that time. For example, the head teacher of the school carries a revolver, and an officer of the [Hamas-run] Internal Security Force wanders the corridors of our school from time to time, staring expertly into our eyes. Then new teachers arrived, the majority of whom are graduates of the college of Islamic law! One of them turned up in our class as a maths teacher, and asked us to prepare the first 20 pages of the book on the first day! The surprises were bigger than we could grasp this quickly; do we really have to deal with the issue as fact, and begin to coexist with it? We don’t know… Especially in the shadow of the ruinous struggle between the Ramallah union and the Gaza government… The extension of the strike from one day to another, and the threat of salary cuts, just increases the taunting, and perfects the twisting of arms, and is nothing more than a development of the methods of wounding and defaming others. And us? Caught between the hammer of Ramallah and the oak tree of Gaza, we pray to God to pay a little attention to our problem.
و في الوقت الذي ينبغي فيه أن نكون قد قطعنا شوطا كبيرا بهذا المنهج دسم المحتوى ، لكم يا أصدقاء تلخيصا لما درسناه وتعلمناه في الأيام الماضية .. حتى هذه اللحظة :
– تعلمنا كيف يكون إنتهاء الدوام مع بدايته في صبيحة كل يوم
– تعلّمنا جيدا كيفية الجلوس في الفصل بهدوء تامّ دون وجود معلم لعدة حصص
– درسنا أيضا أن هذا المعلم قطع راتبه أما ذاك فليس بعد
This is the time in which we should have made great progress in our substantial curriculum; instead I will give you an outline of what we have studied and learnt in the past days, until this moment:
-we learnt how lessons could end at the same time they began every morning
-we learnt very well how to sit in a class, perfectly quiet, without the presence of a teacher for a number of periods
-we also learnt that this teacher had taken a cut in his salary, but some other teacher had not yet
في الحقيقة .. تعلمنا أشياءً كثيرة ، بيد أننا ما زلنا نفتقد الهداية لشيء يدق ناقوس الخطر في عقولنا ، الشيء الوحيد الذي نهتم لمحاولة معرفته في هذه الضياع الذي يعصف بنا كطلاب :
أين نحن من كل هذا ؟!
In fact, we learnt many things, although we are still missing the answer to the question sounding an alarm bell in our minds, the one thing that we are interested in trying to understand in this tempest raging round us as students:

Where do we come in all of this?!

At the time of writing some teachers are still on strike.

3 comments

  • Hassan

    Hello all
    Ian a teacher of English , i have been teaching English for ten years. My students whom i taught in prep schools and they are in secondary schools complained a lot about the level of the teachers and they usually correct the pronunciation and the spelling of those teachers. They feel frustrated and they wish their expert teachers return again, because they really suffer. one of my students told me , I feel as if I am in Arabic class not English class because my new teacher is unable to say one single sentence in English and was teaching in kindergarten before teaching us in level 11 science section.

  • Rully

    They fight each other because of the occupation and collonialism by the israel and supported by the America.

  • […] government in Gaza and the Fatah government in Ramallah has manifested itself in many areas, from education to electricity. Now it is affecting the issuing of passports, and one blogger in Gaza has been […]

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