Why one in four Palestinian boys drop out of school by the age of 15

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Marwan and his 8-year old brother, Hamid, approach a checkpoint in Hebron’s old city, part of what is known as the H2 area (UNICEF / Izhiman)

Children in conflicts

Getting through checkpoints, violence at school and classes they see as irrelevant are among the reasons given for so many adolescents leaving education.

When 14-year-old Marwan walks to school in the West Bank, his way is often blocked by a security checkpoint.

“If the checkpoint is closed, I will go to another one – I will find a way to get to school,” he said.

But not all Palestinian boys his age are as determined to continue their education. While nearly all children aged six to nine are in school, by the time they reach 15 one in four boys have dropped out.

That’s a huge contrast to the 7% of girls who leave school by 15, according to a United Nations report.

“Reaching children who are most at risk of dropping out of school, such as adolescent boys, and tackling the issues they face before it’s too late is critical to keep them in class,” said Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF’s Special Representative in the State of Palestine.

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14-year old Marwan has just crossed the checkpoint at the end of the street where he lives (UNICEF / Izhiman)

The report by UNICEF and UNESCO, in partnership with the education ministry, said boys often drop out because they see the lessons they get as not being relevant to their lives. 

Other reasons included physical and emotional violence in schools from teachers and peers. Two-thirds of children in Grades 1 to 10 report being exposed to emotional and physical violence at school.

Armed conflict is also an issue, more than 29,000 children having their schooling interrupted in 170 attacks and threats of attacks on schools, students or teachers in 2017.

Just getting to school can also be a challenge for adolescent boys in the State of Palestine. 

Children in the West Bank are often forced to pass through several checkpoints, roadblocks and to go around Israeli settlements to reach their classes. Adolescent boys are more likely to be stopped and questioned.

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8-year old Hamid looks out over the old city of Hebron from the roof of his house (UNICEF / Izhiman)

The report – State of Palestine: Country Report on Out of School Children – said education and support services need to meet the needs of individual students, particularly those who fall behind.

“Access to quality education in a safe school environment will ultimately help all children to stay in school and develop the knowledge and skills needed to progress in life,” said Boutin.

Marwan, who lives in Hebron, isn’t going to be among the dropouts. 

“I need to keep going to school, it gives me an opportunity to improve my mind,” he said. “I want to be a photographer in the future so I need school.”  

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