Palestinian universities in the Gaza Strip are suffering from a severe financial crisis that threatens the continuity of their work next year, academics and university administrators said on Thursday.
On the sidelines of a meeting of officials of three universities (Islamic University, Al-Azhar University – Gaza, University College of Applied Sciences) with journalists, the academics and university administrators attributed the financial crisis to the decrease in students’ enrolment rate, by up to 30% at present.
Yahya Al-Sarraj, a member of the joint committee of solving the universities’ crisis in Gaza, said that the universities are suffering from a significant financial crisis.
“This crisis has resulted in the universities’ inability to pay the salaries of teachers, as the dues of university workers reach between $ 28-35 million,” Al-Sarraj added.
He explained that the debts that students owe to the universities reached this year between 28 and 35 million dollars.
Al-Sarraj expressed fears that universities will not be able to accept students next year because of the financial crisis.
Also, the students’ reluctance to enrol in universities threatens society with new social crises, which may lead to unexpected disasters, as he put it.
Al-Sarraj called on the donor parties and Palestinian officials to “realise the seriousness and consequences of the situation the universities are facing and to make efforts to save the next academic year.”
He also called for the need to provide “facilitation loans for students so that the student pays a small amount per month to be able to enrol in the university.”
Dr Mazen Hamada, Vice President of Al-Azhar University – Gaza – for Administrative and Financial Affairs, said that the financial crisis the universities (Islamic University, Al-Azhar University – Gaza, University College of Applied Sciences) have been facing started since about ten years ago.
He explained that the universities’ inability to cover the financial deficit threatens the next academic year and the possibility of these universities to continue their work.
The number of students enrolled in the three universities has dropped from 45,000 to less than 35,000 students, according to Hamada.
He pointed out that many students “have been reluctant to enrol in universities because they cannot pay tuition fees due to the difficult economic conditions.”
Hamada also indicated that about 10,000 students are unable today to get their retained university degrees because they are unable to pay the rest of the tuition fees.
“That means the deprivation of the Palestinian society or the outside communities from 10,000 competencies,” Hamada said in this regard.
He demanded that the concerned authorities provide quick solutions to help students cover their tuition fees.
Hamada also called for the need to provide aids to deliver university degrees for students, pointing out that this may increase their hope of finding a good job opportunity.
More than 2 million Gazans are enduring from severe economic and living conditions, which local and UN officials attribute to the Israeli siege.
The poverty rate in Gaza now exceeds 80 per cent, while the unemployment rate has risen to about 54 per cent, according to the Popular Committee against the Siege on Gaza and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
According to a report released by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) on 19 December, about 70 per cent of Gazans suffer from food insecurity.