Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Workers' Education in Palestine

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Workers' Education in Palestine

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Due to the political context and the restrictions placed on general freedoms and trade union activities, workers' education in Palestine remained informal and largely reliant on oral memory until the early 1990s. For decades, it was an integral part of political education. Workers' education only became a stand-alone field after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, when the change of circumstances enabled the Democracy and Workers' Rights Centre in Palestine to focus on developing training materials and curricula specifically aimed at strengthening the Palestinian labour movement. First inspired and modelled on materials and courses taught internationally, the Centre's labour education program has grown to encompass many locally produced materials and seeks to address specific challenges that face unions in Palestine.

LA FORMATION DES TRAVAILLEURS EN PALESTINE

RÉsuMÉ. Jusqu'au début des années 1990, le contexte politique et les restrictions imposées aux libertés générales ainsi qu'aux activités syndicales étaient la raison pour laquelle la formation des travailleurs en Palestine soit demeurée informelle et largement tributaire de la mémoire orale. Durant plusieurs décennies, cette dernière était une partie intégrante de l'éducation politique. En fait, la formation des travailleurs est devenue un domaine à part entière à la suite de la création de l'Autorité palestinienne lorsqu'un changement de circonstances a permis au Democracy and Workers' Rights Centre, en Palestine, de se concentrer sur le développement de matériel de formation et de programmes visant à renforcer le mouvement ouvrier palestinien. Si, dans un premier temps, le Centre s'est inspiré et a calqué son matériel et ses cours sur l'offre internationale, le programme de formation des travailleurs a évolué de manière à inclure de nombreux contenus pédagogiques locaux. Il cherche aussi à répondre aux défis plus spécifiquement rencontrés par les syndicats en Palestine.

It is not easy to talk about workers' education in Palestine without taking into consideration major historical developments in the past hundred years (the British mandate, the creation of the State of Israel1, the period of Jordanian rule in the West Bank and Egyptian rule in the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli occupation2). These developments have clearly affected all aspects of people's lives in Palestinian society, at the political and social levels. Trade union work has not been spared by these sufferings, although union organizing started early in Palestine, arguably before it appeared in many other Arab countries. Palestinian trade unions have led many struggles during which the line be- came blurred between union, national, and political demands. This did not give the opportunity to the trade union movement to focus on other aspects, including workers' education.

For decades, for reasons related to the successive occupations of Palestine, the Palestinian trade union movement was unable to develop normally, and most efforts were concentrated on national liberation and building the dream of establishing an independent and democratic state in Palestine. Thus, workers' education, like trade union work, remained associated at various periods with political action as it was the only narrow window for spreading national, political and trade union education, and a culture of free education and volunteer work, which began in the 1970s and spread among young people at that time.

For the most part, workers' education in Palestine also relied on oral memory, particularly regarding the history, activities, and struggles of the trade union movement for labour legislation or for solving problems faced by workers. This cannot be dissociated from the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occu- pying power throughout this period, especially after 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel did not allow the establishment of new trade unions in the occupied territory, in addition to prohibiting all trade union activities in the Gaza Strip. …

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