The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued on Monday, 26 September 2016, a position paper titled, “Position Paper on al-Aqsa University Crisis in the Gaza Strip”. This paper addresses the developments relevant to the crisis faced by the major Palestinian governmental university the jeopardizes the future of over 27,000 students and over 1,000 academic and administrative employees. PCHR points out in the paper that thousands of students avoided joining the University. Moreover, the crisis has negatively affected the future of its recent graduates, as they have experienced many problems, including the obstacles when accrediting their certificates because of the accusations exchanged by both the National Unity Government’s Ministry of Education in Ramallah and the Ministry of Education in Gaza on grounds that both parties have issued decisions and instructions paralyzing the University.
PCHR highlights the issuance of this paper is based on its belief that all parties to the crisis should stop to promote the students right to higher education in a positive environment in order to: improve the educational process, protect the right of thousands of new students wishing to join the university, enhance the professional and economic stability for thousands of academics and administrative staff members, promote the University’s educational and professional roles in the society, and meet the society’s needs in preparing students with different specialties.
Additionally, PCHR reminds that the International Bill of Human Rights considered the right to education as a basic human right and shall be directed to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms according to article (26-2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article (13-1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. PCHR highlights what the Palestinian legislature has already stressed about the right to education in many Palestinian laws. Article (24-3) of the Amended Palestinian Basic Law 2005 stipulates, “The law shall guarantee the independence of universities, institutes of higher education, and scientific research centers in a manner that guarantees the freedom of scientific research as well as literary, artistic and cultural creativity. The National Authority shall encourage and support such creativity”. Furthermore, article 2 of the Higher Education Law no. 11/1998 states, “Every citizen has the right to higher education”, which goes in harmony with the international human rights conventions concerning this right on condition the higher education’s competence and objective requirements were available in that person. These laws specified the goals of higher education, the powers of the Ministry and Minister of Higher Education, privacy of higher education institutions and the nature of administrating these institutions.
PCHR stresses in the position paper that al-Aqsa University, which is one of the governmental universities, depends in its work on the Council of Ministers’ decision no. 4/2009 related to the bylaw of Palestinian governmental universities, which regulates the academic education and maintains its independence and professionalism away from any interventions that would push the universities away from their scientific and academic goals. Accordingly, all concerned parties should work under this bylaw as a legal framework that regulates the academic life in all Palestinian governmental universities. Furthermore, PCHR demands both parties to the political conflict to give priority to the best interests of students and respect the regulations and laws related to the right of each Palestinian to higher education in order to serve the community according to its developmental requirements.
PCHR eventually presented a number of recommendations that ensures the respect for, promotion and protection of the right to higher education for everybody, including allowing the University to work in a proper environment that contributes to the development of the academic life.