By Randa Hilal, OPTIMUM for Consultancy and Training, Ramallah, Palestine.
How can Vocational Education and Training (VET) reduce the inequalities related to gender, youth, and refugee status and contribute to human development? This is the key research question I am exploring using the case of Palestine, looking through a human rights and a human development lens.
The context of occupation
The context of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) adds additional layers of marginalization and inequality that need to be considered. Various reports of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Occupied Palestinian Territory (UN OCHA) have explained the Palestinian context, including their February 2015 report:
The overall situation is a protection based crisis, with negative humanitarian ramifications. This crisis in oPt stems from the prolonged occupation and recurrent hostilities, alongside a system of policies that undermine the ability of Palestinians to live normal, self-sustaining lives and realize the full spectrum of their rights, including the right to self-determination. Were these factors removed, Palestinians would be able to develop their government institutions and economy without the need for humanitarian assistance.
The World Bank has also published various reports and studies, including the Economic Monitoring Report to the ad hoc liaison committee (September 2015), highlighting the effect of the occupation on the Palestinian economy and development; such reports indicate that the competitiveness of the Palestinian economy has been progressively eroding since the signing of the Oslo accords, and that Palestinians are getting poorer on average; for the third year in a row the GDP and real GDP per capita are declining. The report insists that until there is a permanent peace agreement, the Palestinian economy will continue to perform below its potential; it has pointed out that if existing agreements are implemented and restrictions lifted, the economy will improve. For example, the World Bank estimates show that granting Palestinian businesses access to economic activity in Area C would boost the Palestinian economy by about a third and lower the Palestinian Authority’s deficit by half.
VET’s role in reducing inequalities in the context of occupation
In analysing marginalisation, my own research considered – in addition to the categories of women, youth and refugees – those who are living within the political marginalised localities due to occupation measures and policies. UN OCHA identified those living in marginalised localities as those living in Area C and the Seam Zone as well as those living in Gaza and East Jerusalem. According to the humanitarian needs overview, UN OCHA has estimated the number of Palestinians in need at 1.9 million (of the 4.5 million Palestinians living in oPt), out of whom 298,000 are East Jerusalem residents, with a similar number living in Area C of the remaining West Bank, and over a million living in Gaza.
In the course of my research over 850 people were consulted, including 746 graduates who filled the survey during the period January-July 2015. Various groups of policy makers, TVET institutes heads and teachers, employers, communities as well as academic teachers and school staff also participated in the research. 31 VET Institutes were interviewed, representing the different providers in the oPt, including: the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Social Affairs, other ministries, Non-Governmental and Church related and UNRWA, within the whole of the oPt areas (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza).
Some of the findings of the study include:
- VET graduates are themselves part of the marginalised youth; more than half of the VET graduates’ families were under the poverty line when they enrolled. In addition, VET graduates were coming from marginalised localities within their governorates and were affected by the context of occupation.
- The labour force participation and employment effects of VET on graduates were high, as they had higher employment and participation rates in the labour force compared to the national figures of youth employment.
- Over half of the VET graduates were contributing to their family income. Results also indicated that one fifth of the graduates had started their own families.
- Social empowerment indicators for the VET graduates scored high due to training and work, with male doing better than female VET gradates.
- When analysing graduates’ achievement of their expectations it was found that graduates’ aspirations were high upon graduation, but that their actual achievements usually fall far short of such aspirations. These results were even worse compared to a similar group surveyed four years ago. This is an alarming signal, and indicates that external and internal challenges were more adversely affecting VET graduates than just a few years ago.
- Challenges were two-fold:
- On the one hand, the context of occupation hinders the development of the whole TVET sector, hinders economic development and restricts the mobility of people; this adversely affects young graduates’ realisation of their dreams with regard to decent employment, setting up their own businesses, participating in their communities, accomplishing and progressing in life and attaining their freedoms.
- On the other hand, there still persist numerous internal institutional and structural challenges that stymy the development TVET in Palestine. These include, for example, the lower pay and lower status accorded to VET graduates, and the difficultly to continue further education in some universities. The inability to set the required laws and policies needed for TVET in Palestine, is related both to the occupation, but also to Palestinians own will to enhance the TVET system.
Findings suggested high economic effects and social empowerment of VET upon youth graduates and those marginalised. Nevertheless, fulfilment of aspiration and functioning of these capabilities were low and reflected the increasing external challenges faced by youth, and were lower than a similar group analysis four years ago. This is an alarming signal, and indicates that all developmental effects and achievements of VET and its contribution to human development could be jeopardised by the low national commitment to skills formation policies and systems and most importantly by the overall context of occupation and its socio-economic effects.
This blog is based on a presentation made at the 13th UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development, “Learning for Sustainable Futures – Making the Connections” 15th to 17th of September 2015. It draws on the author’s PhD Research on “The Value of VET in promoting human rights, advancing human development and reducing inequality: The case of Palestine”.
Randa Hilal is the General Manager and Founder of OPTIMUM for Consultancy and Training, Ramallah, Palestine. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham, UK. Email: email@example.com
 Under the 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement, the West Bank was divided into three areas: A, B and C. Area A is Under Palestinian control and includes the main cities and populated areas, Area B is under joint Palestinian-Israeli control, and Area C is under Israeli Control. Area C cuts across the whole of the West Bank and covers 60% of West Bank land. Key humanitarian concerns related to Area C – according to the UN – can be reviewed here.
 The Seam Zone is the area between the Barrier/ Wall and the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line). The Wall is 712km long, more than twice the length of the Green Line. 85% of the Wall runs inside the West Bank, and in 2004 the International Court of Justice found that the Wall was in violation of international humanitarian law.
 Part of the current survey included similar questions as part of a research presented at the 2011 UKFIET Conference (see Hilal, 2012 – Vocational Education & Training for Women and Youth in Palestine: Poverty Reduction and Gender Equality under Occupation, International Journal of Education Development, Vol. 32, No. 5, Sept 2012, 686–695, Elsevier
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