Our new project, helping Palestinian girls attend high school, reminds us that even as we fight off the terrible attacks on public education in Australia we remain more fortunate than many other countries, as Federation General Secretary Jenny Diamond and CFMEU Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union NSW branch Construction and General Division President Rita Malliapointed out at Women’s Conference.
Our group, Leichhardt Friends of Hebron, supports educational initiatives in Palestine. Working with Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA we raise money at our Refugee Week Festival of Friendship, which will be held on June 21 in Leichhardt Town Hall.
This year we plan to assist children, mainly girls, living in Dkaika (an isolated and vulnerable community in the far south of Palestine, metres from the boundary with Israel) attend high school. Residents of this village live in Palestine but their lives are completely under the control of the Israeli government. Sadly, the community faces a targeted campaign of isolation and destruction from the Israeli army.
Residents of Dkaika face many difficulties. The Israeli authorities are threatening to demolish 35 homes and buildings, including at least one classroom. They also prevent the community from accessing the most basic services, including electricity and running water, although these are provided to Israeli residents of nearby illegal settlements. Despite the hardship, people feel able to remain on their traditional lands as long as their children have access to education, which is highly valued by Palestinians.
There is a primary school but the Israeli authorities have already demolished one classroom, and demolition orders threaten other parts of the school. Older students must walk 7km to attend a junior high school in neighbouring Al Najadah village. This is not an easy walk as the only road is a rough 4WD track through the mountains.
Senior students must travel a further 5km to the closest 7–12 high school, a small institution with a limited curriculum, or 25km to a school offering both sciences and humanities. This has led to soaring school dropout rates, especially for girls.
On the brighter side, two girls have successfully completed high school education and been offered university places. While the closest university is only 25km away in the city of Yatta they have no way of getting there. These restrictions have led to an increase in early marriages and contribute to a cycle of poverty and lack of education that the community is trying to break.
School transport scheme
The people of Dkaika see school transport as the solution. School transport has played a significant role in keeping the nearby village of Susiya alive despite the continuing efforts by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers to uproot it. The Susiya school transport project has not only improved access to education, but has encouraged displaced families to return to their homes, further strengthening the community. The aim is to duplicate this in Dkaika.
Families have indicated that their daughters will be able to stay at school if this service becomes available and others whose daughters found the walk too arduous, say their girls will return to school. Two young women who have won places at a local university will be able to take up these places. The transport will also support male students.
How we can help
You can help support the students of Dkaika by coming to our Refugee Week Festival of Friendship, which will be held on June 21 at Leichhardt Town Hall. The money raised will pay the wages of a driver to take students to high school and university. For more details, go to http://hebronleichhardt.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are welcome and can be made directly to Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA.
Marcia Corderoy, Retired Teachers Association; Jennifer Killen, Life Member; Sonia von Bornemann, Inner West TA.