Thirty-eight percent of children in the West Bank and Gaza are enrolled in preschool, as compared to an enrollment rate of less than 25 percent for children in the Middle East and North Africa region and 50 percent for the world as a whole. But even those children fortunate enough to be enrolled face overcrowding, book shortages, poor ventilation and a lack of play areas. These facts reflect the lack of priority placed on early childhood development (ECD) in the region and the inadequacy of programs and policies aimed at improving the physical, cognitive and psycho-social development of young children. A new report by American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) details the full landscape of the challenges facing ECD in the West Bank and Gaza, including challenges involving health and nutrition, teacher development, school infrastructure, literacy, parenting and lack of creative outlets such as expressive arts.
On March 27, the Center for Universal Education at Brookings hosted a discussion of the report’s findings and ways to address the needs of Palestinian children. Following the presentation of the report by Sulieman Mleahat of ANERA, World Bank Human Development Sector Leader Safaa El-Kogali offered comments drawing on her own work in the West Bank and Gaza and the MENA Region. Brookings Visiting Fellow Tamar Atinc moderated the subsequent discussion.