Date:April 4th, 2000.
Location: Netherlands rep. office at Al Birrha, Ramallah
Mr Ziad Sharia, Netherlands Development Corporation
and liason to UNRWA Education Committee
Mr David Bedein, Israel Resource News Agency
Dr Daphne Burdman, Psychiatric Research Associate
According to Mr Sharia who was recently, (March 2000), appointed as the Officer for “Development Cooperation” in place of a Dutch national, the Netherlands Representative Office is equivalent to a Netherlands Consulate It was established in Jericho in 1994, and moved to Ramallah in 1996. It is responsible for structural development in the fields of education, water management, and agriculture for the new Palestinian society under the Palestinian Authority, and as such came into being as part of the European Union mechanism for financial and administrative aid to this entity. The Italian and Belgian Consulates afford further parts of this E.U. structure.
Mr Sharia was educated in the UNRWA schools within the Deheisha Camp and thereafter received his M.A. in education from a university in Arizona. He taught science, mostly physics in the UNRWA school system for 7 years and then worked in the Ministry of Education of the P.A. for the past 3 years. He presently lives near Deheisha where parts of his family sojourn.
He confirmed that commencing September 2000, the new Palestinian curriculum will be initiated for the 1st and 6th grades; with inclusion of the 2nd and 7th grades in September 2001, and so on over 5 years until completed. Meanwhile the school textbooks used are from Jordan for the West Bank, and from Egypt for Gaza. Under Israeli occupation (1967 -1994), deletion of statements which were considered by the Israelis to be provocative and inciteful of hatred in the Jordanian and Egyptian texts were effected by unilateral decision of the Israelis without negotiation with Jordan or Egypt. It is important to note that the texts with deletions during Israeli occupation, were taught in the public schools only. The UNRWA schools continued to use the unabbreviated Jordanian and Egyptian texts. The official PA texts are now used in the state schools and in UNRWA schools.
After Oslo, the deletions were restored and remain in effect until the present time. Sharia states that requests by the P.A. to make changes in the Jordanian texts were refused under agreements made between the P.A. and Jordan, and the P.A. and Egypt. When asked about the possibility of deleting statements inciting hatred he referred back to those agreements. It also became clear that his professional work is operational and does not involve political issues. Political aspects are in the hands of the Dutch consul Renee Aquarone.
So far the new Palestinian curriculum is “under wraps” until August 2000 at which time it will first be ready for distribution. Mr Sharia has no knowledge of its content. The agreements between the P.A. / Jordan/Egypt account for the entire curriculum except for a “National Education” section to be created by the P.A. Something akin to civics education will form part of the new curriculum. The new curriculum is being developed by Salach Yassin of the Ministry of Education, who is also responsible for the contractual agreements. The PA criticizes that there is no reference to the refugee camps in the present texts. For issues such as the right of return there is no formal program, individual teachers approaching this according to their own viewpoint. UNRWA schools teach according to the policies of their host countries.
According to Mr Sharia, regarding financing, the Netherlands office pays the major part, with a smaller contribution from the P.A., with other donors to be involved in the future. Monitoring by the Netherlands authorities consists of sector reports with combinations of topics. Apparently regular annual reports are not issued. A Joint Evaluation Commission of donors was held in Jerusalem during the past year. Sharia noted that UNESCO would probably be more involved regarding educational matters. It appears that, from what Mr Sharia said, the actual curriculum content is not directly evaluated or monitored by funding EU organizations with regard to issues of the Peace Process and concerns about nationalist or religious incitement.