Education and adolescents
Working to ensure that all Palestinian children and adolescents grow up in a safe environment and have access to quality basic education.
Education is highly valued among families across the State of Palestine, with 95.4 per cent of children enrolled in basic education. But these impressive rates of enrolment mask the challenges of access to school, as adolescent boys and children with disabilities are vulnerable to dropping out of school. By age 15, nearly 25 per cent of boys and 7 per cent of girls have dropped out of school, while 22.5 per cent of boys and 30 per cent of girls aged 6-15 years with a disability have never enrolled in school1.
The future is an uncertain one for adolescents, as youth unemployment rates currently reach 40 per cent in the West Bank and 62 per cent in Gaza2. Accordingly, UNICEF is focused on facilitating the entry of young Palestinians into the job market through skills building, internships and career development support. Qualifications currently acquired by many young people do not match those of the job market, which in-turn affects their motivation to continue learning. Developing life-skills education is therefore critical to enhancing young people’s future integration in the job market3.
Early childhood development (ECD): Some 25 per cent of children aged 35 to 59 months attend organized early childhood education programmes. These programmes are crucial, as early childhood education lays the foundation for numerous aspects of a child’s future. Parents and caregivers need to be supported so that young Palestinian children benefit from quality early childhood education. Violence is also a major challenge for children of all ages, as violence is commonplace in the home and in schools. About 89 per cent of children are subjected to psychological aggression and 74 per cent to physical punishment in the family4. Violence in schools takes the form of psychological violence (e.g. verbal insults, non-physical bullying) as well as physical violence (e.g. corporal punishment, physical bullying) and sexual violence.
In addition, close to half a million children in Palestine also require humanitarian assistance to access quality education5. The protracted conflict and violent episodes of escalation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the closure of the Gaza Strip, and physical access restrictions, pose daily challenges and threats to the fulfillment of children’s rights. Violence against children in all its forms is of serious concern, as it compromises children’s learning and future potential. Children experience distress, fear and intimidation going to and coming from school in high-risk locations where they frequently have to pass through checkpoints or walk by settlements. Constant exposure to conflict, economic hardship, and increased poverty, all contribute towards the acceptance of violence as a social norm, which has adverse effects on children.
- UNICEF. State of Palestine: Out-of-school children. 2018.
- World Bank Group. The World Bank in West Bank and Gaza webpage. 2018.
- "Life skills" can be defined as “psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life”.
- UNICEF. Multiple Indicator Survey. 2014.
- OCHA. Humanitarian Needs Overview, Occupied Palestinian Territories. 2018.
UNICEF supports national efforts to improve the quality of education in the State of Palestine while providing the skills that children and young people need for employment and to cope with life challenges. UNICEF also works to ensure that children grow-up and learn in violence-free environments and are protected when accessing school in sensitive areas of the West Bank.
Promoting life skills and citizenship education (LSCE) is at the core of UNICEF’s work in the State of Palestine. UNICEF is leading the Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative, an initiative supporting MENA countries to develop LSCE in their education systems. UNICEF is in constant dialogue with the Palestinian Ministry of Education to advance LSCE in schools1.
To develop life-skills in primary schools, UNICEF and Birzeit University created new teaching methods for primary school teachers known as “learning objects”2. These “learning objects” put children at the center of the learning experience and greatly enhance their motivation and life-skills through participation in group and interactive activities.
UNICEF implements life-skills and entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment. UNICEF and its partners are developing innovative programs using gamification of learning, and offering internships and career counselling with companies in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In the field of Early Childhood Development (ECD), UNICEF organizes parental awareness sessions to help fathers and mothers better understand early childhood care and how to apply positive discipline in child rearing. In 2018, more than 2,000 parents, including many fathers, benefited from such programs. Kindergarten teachers also benefit from specific trainings allowing them to discipline and teach children without resorting to violence and by using proven alternative discipline methods.
To combat and reduce violence in and out of schools, UNICEF uses a behavioral change approach to challenge the acceptance of violence and social disruption in society. Changes are achieved by working with parents, teachers and children to raise awareness of the impact of regular exposure to violence and the negative effect on children of harsh emotional and physical discipline.
UNICEF is also implementing Communication for Development (C4D) campaigns using social media and communication tools to promote the importance of non-violence and create behavioral change. UNICEF and its partners launched the nonviolence awareness campaign “SUMOW” (“up in the sky” in Arabic) in April 2018 to raise awareness among youth of the need to address gender-based violence and bullying. This campaign has increased calls for non-violence which, in turn, can help reduce bullying and Gender Based Violence amongst adolescents in and out of schools.
As co-lead of the humanitarian response cluster, UNICEF helps to provide children in at-risk areas of the West Bank with a ‘protective presence’ so their journey to and from school is safe. Children who suffer the effects of trauma and stress are also more at risk of falling behind in their education, so UNICEF provides critical remedial education opportunities and school supplies in Gaza to help children catch up on their education and to stay in school.
- For more information about the LSCE Initiative, please visit: http://www.lsce-mena.org/
- For more information about the “learning objects”, please visit: https://www.birzeit.edu/en/community-affairs/center-continuing-education/experiential-learning-objects
These resources on education represent a selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the State of Palestine. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.
1. State of Palestine: Out-of-school children, (UNICEF, 2018).
2. Out-of-school Children Initiative in MENA, regional overview
3. UNICEF State of Palestine, Situation Report, June 2018, (UNICEF, 2018).
4. Life Skills and Citizenship Education Conceptual and Programmatic Framework, Regional Launch Report, 2017 (UNICEF 2017).