UN agencies urge Israel to ease restrictions so Palestinian students can take exams

7 June 2004

Voicing concern about access for 60,000 Palestinian school students seeking to travel to key examination sites, ten United Nations agencies issued a joint statement calling on the Israeli authorities to ease movement restrictions in the occupied territories.

Today marks the start of the Tawjihi high school matriculation exams, which are considered key to the future of young Palestinian pupils.

“Failure to sit for these exams will result in forfeiting the entire school year,” said David S. Bassiouni, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Special Representative in the West Bank and Gaza. “Students will not be able to study in universities and they will be forced to repeat their studies next year.” he added.

Anders Fänge Director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in the West Bank agreed. “If these children are denied safe access to their examination sites, their whole future is undermined,” he said.

Adding his voice, Khaled Abdelshafi, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Gaza, pointed out that Israel’s recent incursions in Rafah have damaged the area’s economy and infrastructure. “To add this restriction of preventing the school children from writing these exams to the already volatile equation will seriously stifle our efforts to attain human development in the area,” he said. “It’s like adding insult to injury.”

Regular and safe access to schools has been an ongoing problem for many Palestinian children. A survey of UN-run schools showed a 16 per cent low-achievement rate, and an 11.5 per cent rate of fear and anxiety among school children.

The statement was issued by UNICEF, UNRWA, UNDP, World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA), UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


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