On Sunday March 10th, 2013, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) opened two computer labs for Lifelong Learning in Palestine project. The computer labs are equipped with 43 laptops, kindles (e-books), smart boards, printers, and scanners. Prof. Mohammed Shabat - Vice President for Academic Affairs cut the ripen. Dr. Yahya bin Ibrahim - Vice President of Sultan Zain Al Abidin University – Malaysia, Dr. Shafek Jundia - Dean of Engineering, Dr. Nabil Sawalhi - Deputy Dean of Engineering, Dr. Aladdin Aljmasi, and LLP team Dr. Fahad Rabah, Dr. Hatem Elaydi and Dr. Hala Khozondar were in attendance. Then, Dr. Hala gave a brief description of the project and the functions of the labs.
Beyond Resistance Art: Art Education in Palestine
During the 36th session of UNESCO’s General Conference, the Member States voted to admit Palestine as the 195th Member of UNESCO on 31st October 2011. Although this change has led the United States to freeze its aid to Palestine, it is a significant step for the progress of education and culture in Palestine. As a newly formed Member State, very little is known about art education in Palestine and this article hopes to shed some light in this direction. When we think of art in relation to Palestine, we often think of Graffiti art on the Israeli Wall or other forms of art in relation to the political unrest between Israel and Palestine. The Israeli Wall, which annexes about fifty percent of the West Bank region in Palestine, is about 760 kilometers long and eight meters in height. Over the years, the Wall has evolved as an interesting site for ordinary people as well as artists from Palestine and elsewhere in the world, who make art on the wall to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people. Figures 1 and 2 are examples of artworks made by British Artist Banksy. These varied forms of artistic expression on the Wall have become popularly known as ‘Resistance Art’ in Palestine.
From left to right: Figures 1 and 2 - Artworks by British artist Banksy
There is however more to art and culture in Palestine, beyond Resistance Art, and more to Palestinian life than what mainstream media generally portrays. Contrary to mainstream media’s biased portrayal of Palestinians as having negative attributes or only being faceless victims, there is more to the reality of life in Palestine.The Palestinian community has well established educational institutions, civil society organizations, infrastructure and opportunities for sports, and various forms of art practices that form an integral part of the daily life of the Palestinian people. These include literature, visual arts, folklore, music festivals, dance performances, theatre and film, as well as opportunities for education in the arts both in schools and in higher education institutions. Despite the continuous suffering of the Palestinians and daily violation of human rights under the occupation by Israeli military forces, which Palestinians and international human rights activists consider illegal, the Palestinian people's love for life and ability to find hope in the midst of despair and commitment to building the infrastructure for a viable state are what drives this vibrant and creative cultural and educational landscape. Figure 3 shows artists at the Diyar Dance Theatre performing their first production ‘Portraits of Fear’, which is a unique mix of a Palestinian folk dance (Dabka) and contemporary dance and theatre. The Diyar Dance Theatre, which was formed about four years ago, primarily includes young people in their teens through their mid-20s, who have performed throughout Europe and the Gulf countries, and more recently in the United States. Their effort is to use the arts to express issues of justice, empower young people and contribute towards peacebuilding.
Figure 3: Artists from the Diyar Dance Theatre performing a mix of Dabka and contemporary dance & theatre
With more than half of Palestinian population under the age of 19 years, education, and art and cultural programs aimed at young people are among the fastest growing in importance and scale, and civil society organizations are increasingly seeking new ways to create opportunities for human and cultural development in Palestine. This has important implications for art education both at the school level as well as at the higher education level. As a field, art education is of increasing importance to Palestine for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are a number of gifted and talented young people who are interested in studying the arts and interested in pursuing a career in the arts, and arts education. Not everyone is interested in the sciences. Secondly, although there is a heavy emphasis on the sciences in many schools, there is a need in Palestine to open up opportunities for alternate subjects such as the arts for young people to be able to choose alternate career paths. With thousands of Palestinian college graduates graduating in engineering and business management degrees (among other subjects), there are limited job opportunities in these fields due to the political climate in Palestine and an economy that is continuously in transition. Hence, investing in the arts and arts education would help build a creative economy that can sustain artists and human resources in arts related fields, at a time when opportunities in science, engineering and management are low (See mission statement of the Dar Al-Kalima College, Palestine)
From left to right: Figures 4 and 5: Student in a Fine Art class and students in a music performance
Further, in Palestine, there are many relief and voluntary organizations that work towards human and social development, some of which engage children and young people with the arts for psychosocial support, especially in the Gaza region and refugee camps, hence educational opportunities in the arts as a therapy would be significantly valuable in Palestine. Finally, with the ongoing political unrest in Palestine, art has evolved as a significant means of expression and visual communication not only for artists but also for children and young people. The Israeli Wall, which the Palestinians and international human rights activists consider a tool of colonization and oppression has been transformed and used by Palestinians, international peace activists and artists as a platform for expression and resistance. It is at the heart of Palestinian culture as a platform of creative expression and illustration of peace, especially positive peace.
Although art education is of increasing importance to Palestine, there are several challenges in the field. For example, in schools, art is taught as a required subject from kindergarten to high school, however, there is no standard curriculum that all the schools can follow. Each school sets its own arts curriculum, which further depends on factors such as the budget allotted to art in the school, or the type of school, whether private, public or run by the United Nations, and most importantly the qualification and expertise of the teachers teaching art. More importantly, not all schools take art as seriously as they take science courses. This is primarily because in the nation-wide standardized high school matriculation exam, art is not included. Apart from these issues, the most crucial challenge facing this domain in schools, as well as secondary vocational training centers that teach art is the need for qualified teachers in art education as well as in education through the arts. Lack of human resources within Palestinian territories has been a major problem for years. Most qualified teachers and educators are educated outside Palestine, and work outside Palestine. Furthermore, while there are many skilled visual artists teaching art, there is an increasing need for artists to be trained in teacher education.
Figure 6: Students working on their Glass Ceramics projects
In view of these challenges, many efforts are being made to develop human resources in the field by fostering education in and through the arts, especially at the vocational and higher education level. Amongst these efforts, the Dar Al-Kalima College (of higher education) in the West Bank region of Bethlehem has been making a significant difference for the past few years. The College has been offering higher education degree courses in the arts and communication studies such as Contemporary Fine Arts, Jewelry Production and Design, Glass and Ceramics, Documentary Film Production, Music Performance, Drama and Theater Performance, Tour Guiding and Culinary Art. Figure 6 shows Dar Al-Kalima College students working on their Glass Ceramics projects. Figures 7 shows a Dar Al-Kalima College student in Jewelry Production and Design class and Figure 8 shows another student in a Ceramics class. More recently, the College has started offering an Art Education degree course targeted especially for individuals interested in teaching art in primary and secondary education as well as artists interested in teaching the arts in schools and vocational centers. Further, the College provides a forum and a bridge for international communication that allows young people in the arts and education, to study with people from diverse geographical, religious and multicultural backgrounds, thereby promoting a culture of pluralism and diversity in education.
From left to right: Figures 7 and 8: Student in a Jewelry design class and student in a Ceramics class
Education is a key component in fostering a sustainable economy, and building a culture of peace in Palestine. The mission of Dar al-Kalima College is to provide quality education in the arts and communication studies that meets the social, cultural and economic needs of the people. Further, by offering alternate educational opportunities in the arts, apart from what other higher education institutions already offer, the College not only fills the gap in Palestinian Higher Education, but also contributes towards the much needed human resource development in the arts and education. In a community with limited natural resources and restricted access to them, the College believes that Palestine's human resources and its art and culture are its most valuable capital. Hence, development of the arts and education are critical for the future of the Palestinian people.
Figure 9: An installation by a student at an art exhibition in Dar Al-Kalima College
The Dar al-Kalima College and its umbrella institution, the Diyar Consortium represent the cultural, artistic and intellectual hub of the Palestinian people. By cultivating talent, providing education in the arts, and promoting the cultural heritage and identity of Palestine, the Consortium and the College in particular are empowering the youth to become future artists, educators and proactive citizens of Palestine.
About the Author
This article was written with the help of a researcher and resident of West Bank who divides her time between Palestine and the United States. For more information, please contact the editor. For more information on Dar Al-Kalima College, please visit the site (in Arabic).
LLIP colleagues met in the University of Glasgow for to review the results of Palestine’s first ‘national’ benchmarking exercise in early 2012. The benchmarking was one of the first tasks of LLIP, a second task involved community assessments where teams from Ireland and Scotland visited the West Bank and Gaza and were overwhelmed by the variety and richness of projects. One of the problems that has clearly emerged is linking different forms of provision. Examples of good practice now exists and has been recorded in the Universities of Birzeit, Al Quds, Bethlehem and the Islamic University of Gaza. Visits were carried out with the Centre for Research in Education and the Women Graduates Society in Gaza.
One of the next tasks is an extensive programmes of seminars. An ongoing task raised in these seminars and workshops will be linking education to employment and Palestinian civil society. Palestine has an incredibly learned population. People put their knowledge to work in all sorts of ways that improve life wherever it is possible.
Specific seminars will be on pedagogical issues following from flexible learning, the role of memory and collective identity in civic education, employment, women, IT communication and language skills in networks of informal learning and community-based provision. The project invites broader participation from NGO networks all over the West Bank and Gaza.
For any organization wishing to get involved in the seminars, please contact one of the following:
Further contacts are:
CARE - http://www.care-palestine.comSOCIETY FOR THE GRADUATE WOMEN OF GAZA
A full report of the meetings held in Glasgow will posted on the Lifelong Learning in Palestine website
There are a number of films on the website that record public lectures and round-table discussions.
Whilst in the UK visiting the University of Brighton, Professor Yousef Najajreh visited Scotland and the University of Glasgow, where he addressed a group of staff and students on Lifelong Learning in the Old City of Jerusalem. He stressed he looked forward to a long partnership with Glasgow, its university and its employment programs. In the picture, behind Professor Najajreh is the Lifelong Learning in Palestine website at http://lllp.iugaza.edu.ps/en/Project.aspx
CONNECTING THROUGH COLLABORATION: THE KEY TO LIFELONG LEARNING SUCCESS
Professor Najajreh visited the University of Glasgow on the 30th June and spoke to different groups over four days. He described the problems of connecting different forms of outreach education to the University of Al Quds in Abu Dis. Many of the questions focused on the specific problems of east Jerusalem. Other questions related to the benchmarking exercise that has just been carried out across the west Bank and Gaza and how the findings of that exercise translate into the next phase of Lifelong Learning in Palestine.
Local providers of Lifelong Learning in the city of Glasgow wanted to know how they could connect with the project in Palestine. Many email addresses were exchanged. The point of contact is the website for the project at
Professor Najajreh explained how workshops would be filmed and available to everyone through the website. Indeed, whilst Professor Najajreh was in Glasgow he gave a one- hour interview which will also be posted on the LLIP website shortly. He spoke of a new role for Palestinian universities in regional development and capacity building right across the West Bank and Gaza. He frequently underlined the fact that Palestinian universities were of one mind in now wishing to contribute to Palestinian societies broader global development. In this aim he said ‘we are one people’ ….
Several meetings in Glasgow focused around the promotion of employment, work placements for Al Quds students in Glasgow and staff and student exchanges. He also discussed possibilities of new joint PhD programmes. Professor Najajreh noted on several occasions that the experiences of Glasgow and Al Quds combined would bring many insights into how we further joint participation in the global knowledge economy where education and employment should work in a seamless way, providing each individual with opportunities throughout life. An advisory group has been set up in the University to assist Al Quds in developing Community Development courses which are work-based and would greatly improve life in the Old City and east Jerusalem. He stressed the importance of academics and employers working much more closely together now.
Also see published on
Whilst the Lifelong Learning in Palestine team were meeting in Al Quds, Jerusalem, Dr Nibal Nasser who works closely with Dr Moussa Ribadi who heads the LLIP in Bethlehem, met with Glasgow Councilors, Professor Mike Osborne, Fair Trade and local business representatives in Glasgow. In the photograph below are Leila Chalid, who is a scholarship student from Gaza, Pauline McNeil, a long time supporter of Palestine, Dr Nasser, and Glasgow City Councilors Alistair Watson. Discussed was the twinning and business collaboration between the cities of Bethelehem and Glasgow. Shared interests were explored around the problem of internet access – faster access – effective drainage systems in problematic locations and flooding prevention. They also talked about the Separation Barrier surrounding Bethlehem and the problems it causes in flooding. Movement in and out of Bethlehem is near impossible placing a huge burden on Bethlehem citizens and local businesses who spend a huge amounts on transport. Of particular interest in reports that followed was the way Lifelong Learning in Palestine might consolidate the relationship between Bethlehem and Glasgow in the future.
Councilor Alistair Watson and colleague in Glasgow City Council along with Dr Nasser and colleagues
A common agreement was that the Lifelong Learning project gives Glasgow and Bethlehem every reason for building their twinning arrangement. More visits and exchanges have been planned.
Mike Osborne of Glasgow University at Falafel
Professor Mike Osborne is Co-Director of PASCAL International Observatory and Director of the Centre for research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning. The Centre focuses on citizenship, community-based learning and widening access. Mike talked about PASCAL and life long learning the opening up of opportunities throughout the Middle East. He suggested that marketing students at Glasgow might take on the project of marketing the hand made soap from Bethlehem. Invitations were extended to Dr Nasser for participation in knowledge exchange between the two cities. Professor Osborne is one of the Glasgow Lifelong Learning in Palestine team.
Martin Rhodes Fair Trade Scotland
Fair Trade Scotland mostly raise awareness on foar trade issues. Martin suggested a number of points of contact. Hadeel retailers in Palestinian goods based in Edinburgh run by Carole Morton (email forwarded with details ) Martin will get details for Equal Exchange who import fair trade product , based in Edinburgh , there was a discussion on specialty teas, high end Olive oil products and how to market Soap. One World (which Nabil visited in Great Western Road ) was a good outlet and stocks Palestinian goods. Rachael Ferry is the contact for One world. Nativity sets and crafts were discussed. Traid Craft bases in Newcastle were a point of contact. Deal with Oxfam for Olive Oil discussed , valued at 3 million Euros. Margaret Mulgaven in Renfrew imports Palestinian produce for sale.
Esca Chisholm Street Glasgow with Azzam Mohammed
Discussion on marketing Olive products with local businessman Azzam Mohammed met top discuss Olive Aid, which is a project that allows people to donate for planting olive trees and helps to protect the land Pauline and Azzam offered to promote this project in Scotland.
Lifelong Learning in Palestine was among a number of international institutions and projects celebrating 60 years of UNESCO work at the Institute of Lifelong Learning on the 24th May. The opening lecture was delivered on Responding to Global Challenges through Lifelong Learning with Professor Pierre Gedeon, who is President of AUCE in Lebanon, speaking the next day on distance learning and integration strategy, which is a central aim of LLIP. Professor Gedeon was followed by Professor Mike Osborne who addressed ‘Openness and flexibility for adults to and through higher education’. Professor Osborne is part of the LLIP team in Glasgow and Co-Director of PASCAL in the School of Education in the University of Glasgow. The audience came from just about every part of the world. There was a great deal of interest in the Palestine project.
All the papers delivered during this event will be posted on this website by mid June.
The following was reported after entering Gaza in March 2012 by Professors Rebecca Kay and Alison Phipps of the University of Glasgow. Keith Hammond also took part in the visit but concentrated his time specifically on the LLIP project with partners in the Islamic University of Gaza.
Interviews were combined with extensive ethnographic observation, photography and informal discussions and exchange as well as the collection of materials produced by the organizations visited. This took place at a range of locations both in the offices of the organizations providing life-long learning and in the various contexts and projects where life-long learning is delivered. This made it possible for leadership to be documented in situ as well as collecting testimonies and narratives of a wider range of examples of leadership, its characteristics and underpinnings. The combination of approaches used in the visit was important in making it possible to see linkages and areas for enhanced co-ordination and development between and across sectors which cannot always be seen from within the frameworks of individual projects. This was already a benefit of an international EU supported project and complemented the benchmarking work undertaken in WP1 by providing thick description and contextualized insight into leadership, strategy and aspiration within Gaza. In particular WP2 was able to identify underlying commonalities in approach and some significant gaps in provision and unevenness in access to resource of all kinds (financial, structural, knowledge, international contact, advocacy, material, entrepreneurial). These are explored further as recommendations below.
Whilst the meetings and interviews focused on allowing leaders to present their projects, strategies, aspirations and needs for development, visits and other materials contextualized the leadership, in particular with regards to the conditions of day-to-day life in Gaza under conditions of siege and ongoing aggression. Emergent from the work was a very strong urgent focus on the needs of young people living with 65% unemployment and dire economic conditions which require a political solution.