Saudi Arabia provides US$ 15 million to UNESCO programme for students and universities in the Palestinian TerritoriesThe Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People yesterday committed US$15.2 million to a UNESCO programme to benefit Palestinian universities and students in need. The programme will be implemented immediately out of UNESCO’s office in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
The programme will provide direct financial support to 11 Palestinian universities and to Palestinian students in need who are enrolled in those universities and in leading post-secondary colleges. The Saudi grant will also be used to assist the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education in creating a student aid system.
Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Azziz, the Saudi Minister of the Interior who is also the Director-General of the Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People; the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura represented by Ahmed Sayyad, the Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation; and the Palestinian Minister for Education and Higher Education, Naim Abu-Humos signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the programme in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) yesterday.
During the signing ceremony, Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, expressed the hope that the agreement will “mark the start of a fruitful cooperation between Saudi Arabia and UNESCO.” He went on to recall the longstanding commitment of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Palestinian people, especially in the field of Education.
In a message for the occasion, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, praised Saudi Arabia’s generosity and called the Saudi grant “a very good example of international solidarity as well as a demonstration of South-South cooperation.” He further pointed out that “the Palestinian territories are facing considerable obstacles to social development due to various political factors, increasing poverty and massive unemployment. This is why,” he said, “investing in education is critical. The grant in question will seek to support the Palestinian higher education strategy with the aim of making the system more effective, more accessible to students from low income households, more relevant to Palestinian economic and development needs, more efficient and transparent in its use of resources, and financially sustainable.”
The Director-General further reiterated his commitment on behalf of UNESCO to provide support to the Palestinian people in all areas of the Organization’s competence. He declared: “we will mobilize our resources as well as those of our partners to make sure that the needs of the Palestinian people will be met so that they may take part in economic and social development along with the rest of the world.”
The rate of enrolment at universities in the West Bank and Gaza was at 25 percent in 2003, higher than the 15 percent average found in the Arab region, totalling 136,000 students at the 11 universities, four university colleges and 24 community and technical colleges in the Palestinian Territories. The number of students enrolled in these institutions more than tripled between 1995 and 2003 and the Palestinian higher education system is facing many challenges compounded by conflict, increasing poverty and high unemployment.