During a press conference in Ramallah on 30/4/2013 the Palestinian Education Coalition announced launching the Global Action Week 2014 "Equal Rights Equal Opportunities". The press conference witnessed presence of representatives of the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), UNRWA Education Program, the General Union of Palestinians with Disability (GUPWD), Independent Union of Workers in addition to the members of the Palestinian Education Coalition.
This press conference comes as the official start of the GAW activities organized by the Palestinian Education Coalition as a whole and the other activities that are self-organized by its member organizations. In Palestine, the campaign emphasizes demands towards "inclusive schools by 2020". The aim of the campaign is to put pressure on government and lobby with the community and media in order to activate and develop polices during 2014-2015 that will ensure inclusive schools for all by 2020.
Dr. Basri Saleh, Deputy Minister of Education for Planning and Development Affairs, stated that the MoEHE is keen to work towards progress in achieving EFA goals, especially that the national education strategic plans and sector plans are based on the MDGs and EFA goals. He added that MoEHE will continue its support to the GAW organizers in order to unify efforts and achieve true partnership with the civil society and community. Dr. Saleh mentioned that the issue of providing inclusive schools is of high importance to the Ministry as the meaning of inclusion doesn't only entail physical environment accessibility, but also entails social attitudes, and teacher qualification.
Mr. Rafeeq Abu Saifeen, president of the interim leadership committee of the General Union of Palestinians with Disability, presented a summary of the current status of persons with disability in Palestine and highlighted the important need to implement the Palestinian Disability Rights Law PDRL 99/4. Mr. Abu Saifeen expressed satisfaction with the collective advocacy efforts by the Palestinian civil society in order to increase impact of advocacy for rights of persons with disability in all aspects of life, especially education, health and employment.
Mr. Mohammad Araj, Director of PWD Rehabilitation Program at UNRWA WBGS, stated that UNRWA is a partner in this campaign because of the significant amount of attention that is given to rights of persons with disability in its policies. UNRWA has started its rehabilitation program since more than 22 years ago. The rehabilitation program developed to be rights-based with focus also on quality services and community awareness and participation. Mr. Araj added that working towards full achievements of rights of persons with disability requires that governments and duty bearers allocate considerable budgets and adopt more inclusive policies. In education, Mr. Araj added, there is an urgent need to review curriculum, assistance tools and awareness.
Mr. Omar Assaf, National Coordinator of the Palestinian Education Coalition, expressed in his speech satisfaction with the high level of commitment and coordination on a national level in preparations for the GAW of 2014. The National Coordinator stated that GAW 2014 is rich with variety of activities that target all locations in West Bank and Gaza and address persons with disability, children, parents, teachers, community activities and decision makers. The GAW activities include national and large scale activities that are organized by the Coalition as a whole in addition to self-organizes activities by the Coalition's member organizations. On the main challenges facing implementation of rights of persons with disability in Palestine, Mr. Assaf said that there is a lack in systematic flow of information on disability issues and lack of monitoring and reporting on violations of the PDRL 99/4. In addition, the main challenge in education is the lack of inclusive environments in the schools and other education institutions. Mr. Assaf mentioned that in Palestine we don't need new legislations, the law is there but we neet to ensure its full implementation.
At the end of the press conference, Mrs. Intesar Hamdan, Human Rights Program Manager at TCC, presented the preparations for GAW 2014 and the demands that are included in the position paper issued by the Palestinian Education Coalition. She stated that the campaign of this year is very important as it attempts to demand decision makers to implement the PDRL in order to ensure rights of persons and children with disability are being met. Mrs. Hamdan focused on education and mentioned that EFA goals which are part of the national plans for education entail provision of quality education and learning environment for all including children with disability. She mentioned that children with disability are of high risk of school dropout at early ages. As for children with disabilities who are able to continue their education, they suffer excluding environments and most of the time total separation and isolation from other children. This increases social prejudice against them. The Education Coalition focused in its demands on developmental and rights-based dimensions. The major demand is provision for policies that enhance inclusiveness and increase accessibility for all girls and boys, with sensitivity to diversity and against discrimination.
The Palestinian Education Coalition demands the Palestinian government through the GAW in Palestine to:
- Providing rehabilitation for schools and educational institutions to become more inclusive and accessible for persons with disability;
- Allocating sufficient budgets for education to allow development in education for persons with disability;
- Preparing plans for teacher qualification for teaching persons with disability;
- Approving inclusive policies for educational institutions;
- Sensitization of curricula to disability issues;
- Improving provision of information and indicators on disability issues;
- Ensuring implementation of legislations pertaining to needs of persons with disability in the educational environment.
The press conference concluded with presentation of the activities in all districts of West Bank and Gaza Strip. The activities include: marches, protests, meetings with Palestinian Legislative Council representatives, general activities in public, UNRWA and private schools, Friday and Sunday sermons, film display, and a national conference on inclusive educational environments, in addition to a number of self-organized activities by the member organizations of the Palestinian Education Coalition.
It is worth mentioning that the GAW 2014 official launching event was implemented simultaneously in Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.