2015 Activities

AMAN Calls for MoHE to Control All Scholarships and Provide more Standards and Opportunities

AMAN Calls for MoHE to Control All Scholarships and Provide more Standards and Opportunities

In light of the recent media news on Venezuelan scholarships, and based on its belief in the importance of enhancing the role of the civil society in community accountability, and affirming its right to obtainall information on scholarships and the standards mechanisms of awarding them to beneficiary students and in respect of the transparencyprinciple, AMAN held accountability session for the Ministry of Education.

Following expressing its gratitude to the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education represented by Dr. Anwar Zakariyya,Undersecretary Assistant for Higher Education, for his responsiveness, he was given the chance to clarify facts related Venezuelan scholarships of 2014. Dr. Anwar said that the Venezuelan government offers scholarships to students to join the annual program of Medicine which recognized by the Palestinians Ministry of Health and the Medical Association, i.e. the holder of this certificate can equalize his certificate locally and practice his/her career in this field. He stated that the total scholarships offered are 20 per year. However, Venezuelan government, in sympathy with the Palestinian people, has decided to increase the number of scholarshipsin this program to be 100 this year out of 1000 scholarships to be provided in stages and in subsequent years.

Standards of the Venezuelan Scholarship

Mr. Zakariyya gave an explanation of the selection criteria of beneficiaries of the Venezuelan scholarship. He identified that the main criteria- set by the Venezuelans party- is the social status of students as it is dedicated to the poor. MoHE has set the minimum average to accept applicants to the scholarship by 80% of the scientific stream. He stated that the Venezuelan party has notified MoHE that the required number for this year will be (100 beneficiaries). It was agreed with the Venezuelan party on the geographical distribution as a selection criterion to be distributed among students of the West Bank, Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora, taking into account students of Jerusalem as a sign of supporting them.

Events and Procedures Taken by MoHE on the Recent Venezuelan Scholarship

Dr. Zakariyya explained that MoHE made an announcement of the Venezuelan scholarshipand its conditions through the ministry website and the media. An average-based list of names was submitted to the Venezuelan side, but it was rejected under the justification that the scholarship is dedicated to the poor. They sent MoHE a list of names selected randomly based on the belief that those with low average deserve scholarships since they are the poorest compared to students with higher averages who have all the capabilities and conditions that contributed to their success. MoHE expressed its objection against such a criterion explaining that this criterion is inaccurate as it a student who might get 95% is the poorest. Therefore, both parties agreed to adopt the same mechanism which was used in granting the scholarships in previous years since they are dedicated to the poor. Students were asked about their families’ monthly income and number of brothers and sisters, and then resubmitted the list to the (Venezuelan side) within a week. MoHE reached out all students, to send all the 221 names received who are interested to get the scholarshipto the Venezuelan side. The Venezuelan side approved 100 names of the said list based on the decision made by the Venezuelan Committee formed for this purpose and chaired by the Venezuelan Vice President.

Following the selection of students, MoHE held an explanatorymeeting with the Palestinians students benefited from of the scholarship in the West Bank and Gaza through video conferencing. Some students announced that they are not keen to get the scholarship, so MoHE replaced them by referring to the list of reserve names and selected students according to their order. Thus, the final list of names included 53 beneficiaries from the West Bank, 42 from Gaza Strip, 3 from Syria and 2 from Jordan.

Availability of Students’ Names who did not apply to MoHE or Palestine Embassy

The Assistant Undersecretary added that the Venezuelan side sought to grant 25 medicinescholarships to some leftist parties in Jordan scholarships through a direct line of communication between the two parties. Accordingly, 25 Jordanian students holding the national number were selected and there were no interference by any Palestinian official party in the selection of students of Jordan and they are not part of 1000 scholarshipsdedicated for the Palestinians. Such a matter happens in many countries, for example Cuba which offers scholarships to political parties and not through governments.

Venezuelan Opposition Parties are the KeySource of Confusion

Dr. Zakariyyaindicated that the Venezuelan opposition parties condemned the provision of 1000 scholarships to the Palestinians under the pretext that there are many students who mightrefrain studying medicine in Venezuela, which is looked at as a financial loss to the Venezuelan government. After that certain Venezuelan newspapers published such claims and then an Israeli newspaper quoted the articles and published unfounded news about the same subjects to stir up confusion that would negativelyaffectthe Palestinian government. Newspapers then talked about20 returnees benefiting from the scholarship who actually withdraw of their own free will from the scholarship, as the case of any student in any university when they decide to change their major or the like. So, MoHE has no role in their decision.

Other Scholarships

Mr. Zakariyya added that there are a lot of scholarships that are offered in favor of the Palestinians through MoHE, for example but not limited to, the Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Hungarian, Pakistan and other scholarships. Each state offering a scholarship has its own requirements and criteria as well as disciplines identified. However, there are scholarshipsthat MoHE has nothing to do with them, such as those granted through the European countries to universities directly and the military scholarships. Therefore, not all scholarships come under the management, supervision and responsibility of MoHE. Meanwhile, scholarshipsoffered through Palestinian embassies are sent directly to MoHE to be responsible for contrary to previous procedures.
Dr. AzmiShuaibi,Consultant at AMAN, pointed out that this session, in one hand, is part of other sessions held by AMAN to enhance the principle of community accountability for organizations which provide public services and runa public affair. On the other hand, it is held to promote transparency and to keep the public informedon actualities of issues taking place, such as scholarshipsand that the Venezuelanscholarship is one of them.

Mrs. Hama Zidan, Director of Legal Advocacy and Guidance Unit at AMAN, pointed out the importance of the hearing and accountability sessions in activating the citizens’ participation in developing public policies and making the decisions affecting them, as well as the role of the institutions of civil society in policy-making. Also, they are helpful in providing sufficient information to citizens to enable them to monitor the official’sperformance and commitment and to be subject to the accountability of his/her community regarding the results of his/her achievements. Zidan stressed the fact that MoHE, specifically the General Administration of Scholarships, iscommitted over the previous years to attend the accountability and hearing sessions held by AMAN on issues related to scholarships.

Disseminating Information and Educating and Counseling Students

At the end of the session attended by media, public and privates institutions representatives, as well as interested journalists and professionals and citizens from the West Bank and Gaza via CCTV “video conferencing”, it was emphasized that it is important to disseminate information and to identify the selection criteria of beneficiaries of the scholarships through various means. This is to be adopted to ensure justice and equity through open competition among students. Certain attendees stated that the Palestinian citizen suffers from a confidence crisis in the government and its procedures. Therefore, it is recommended to disseminate information through different means to enhance the government credibility.

The audience also stressed the need that MoHE is to oversee all scholarships, whether they are offered through the Palestinian embassies, the President’sOffice, the security services or any other official entity. Also, they emphasized on giving the chance to all citizens to compete to get such scholarships and to deal with the results transparently. It is worth mentioning that AMAN has alreadycommenced collecting information on military scholarships that are handled by the President’s Office in order to quest the level of equity in distributingscholarships to the applicants and to ensure bettertransparency and dissemination of mechanisms for selecting beneficiaries.

This project is funded by EU 

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