A dog that bits into W. bank economy
An Arab newspaper recently carried a report of the daily ordeal faced by many Palestinians living in Israel but working in the occupied territories: the humiliating experience of being questioned, searched and probed by sadistic Israeli border guards. Bad enough in itself, the experience is considerably worsened by the presence of a dog. Now dogs, as we all know, are said to be man's best friend - at least in the western world - and there are many stories illustrating the point. This particular dog is surely no better nor worse than thousands of others around the world. What then can it possibly have to do with such a problem?
The dog, it seems, has been trained to sniff out explosives that may be hidden in the fruit and vegetables that Palestinian vendors hope to sell in the occupied lands. While the guards have set schedules which are known to them well in advance, the dog has no relief. His job is a 24-hour-a-day one. The truth is that he had once a helper who relieved him but the helper ran off with a pretty little female dog. Nature obviously took its course but someone now has to make up the slack. The poor dog is thus severely overworked and on some occasions has been known to take a nap lasting for several hours. And in this case, no vendors are allowed to cross into the occupied territories. One Arab journalist, Mr. Rashad Abu Daud, has even gone so far as to wish the dog health and happiness as the Palestinian economy is so dependent upon his health and his mood.
Surely the United States could help the situation - and the peace process - by giving Israel a few more dogs. The U.S. is pushing for more Middle East economic summits but all their efforts will come to naught if the issue of the dog is not resolved. On top of the problem with the dog, we are appalled to learn that the American House of Representatives has called for Jerusalem to become the capital of a united Israel. Furthermore, the Americans are pressuring Lebanon to withdraw its resolution at the United Nations on the Cana massacre. Is there no end to it? The only thing worse would be the total withdrawal of the dog and the crippling of the Palestinian economy. Indeed, what level have we reached in the Arab world?
Last week I read an article about a recent symposium held in Sharjah in the U.A.E. The result of the symposium was a number of recommendations for remedial measures to improve the quality of education by improving the quality of teachers. The Arab world is in dire need of an overhauling of its educational system. People must be prepared to face the challenges of a changing and competitive world. The aim should be to attain a level of education and competence that is recognized throughout the world. This is unfortunately not the case at present.
The Arab world does not lack universities or educational institutions but it most definitely lacks the quality which should be present in those institutions. There are many reasons for this - among them the control of education by bureaucrats who are more interested in publishing statistics on quantity rather than concentrating on quality. The symposium in Sharjah highlighted the training and employment of national teachers so the proposals made there deserve to be looked at very carefully by the concerned authorities.
Education is the key to survival. Without it, we are nothing. It is of course good to have graduates in history and geography but the top priority should go to science. A clear understanding of science and its role in our lives is vital for survival; and one of the most important parts of scientific education is the conducting of experiments in order to arrive at conclusions, the studying of cause and effect and the use of data to formulate these conclusions.
Arab educators should welcome the call for encouragement to be given to creative teachers. And by "creative", I mean those who do not follow routine methods in the classroom; in the past, these teachers were often penalized and ignored but they must be looked at carefully and, when proper, brought to the fore. Evolution of the curriculum should be constant so that it keeps abreast of information. We must of course use the past and its lessons but we must also see to it that our children are learning to think and not just to memorize facts and figures with no idea of their meanings or implications for life.
In the end, everything comes down to the maintenance of quality whether it is in selecting teacher trainees, offering them appropriate training or ensuring that working conditions and salaries are satisfactory. With all this in mind, our educational authorities should look into the recommendations of the symposium which contain, I feel sure, many useful ideas and proposals. They would surely make a very positive contribution to our society.