The Occupied Palestinian territories are ravaged by the pandemic and due to lockdowns the shift to e-learning has exacerbated previously held inequalities in the south of Hebron. Teachers, students, and mothers with little to no digital knowledge nor access to computers were at a severe disadvantage with little to no access to technology. They were at risk of falling behind when schools switched to e-learning.
Before Covid-19, there was already an escalating unemployment rate of 40% for the youth and more than 60% for young graduates. To answer the needs in terms of training and access to computers, ACTED and our partner MA’AN Development Center have created a mobile digital centre. The teachers and especially the women who lacked knowledge in this subject finally had access to invaluable training to help improve their digital literacy. With the COVID-19 pandemic continually forcing schools to switch to e-learning, AFD’s support has allowed these students and teachers to adapt to this difficult transition.
“Culture hindered the women’s participation in training and capacity building activities, but we all have the desire to learn and participate in the community for change.” Labibah is, like many women in the south of Hebron, a married mother with children and lacking access to technology. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and students were forced to use online schooling and she could not help her young children who struggled to keep up with their coursework. Her children began to fall behind in school.
Labibah is not alone in this struggle. This is a common phenomenon amongst other women across the area and mothers at home are not the only ones. In fact, of households that are headed by women, only 19% own a computer compared to 35% of households headed by men. This is mainly due to social and cultural constructs which restrict the access to digital equipment for women, because of their role within the household, and to a more limited material resources affecting families not headed by men. Teachers in the area are also greatly under trained to teach in a virtual environment. With nearly 75% of teachers in Palestinian territories being female, the lack of digital literacy amongst women in the region has seeped into the educational systems. The students are the ones worst affected as they simply do not have anyone to expose them to technology.
ACTED and MAAN kept mobility as a key part of its approach to the problem, to be able to provide access to everyone you have to be able to move easily. The project helped rebuild a mobile structure and install internet connectivity and computers. The structure is meant to move around rural communities with the aim of enhancing the digital competencies of the teachers in the targeted schools and the women in the wider area. The structure will be specifically geared towards helping teachers teach in an online environment. The structure will help women gain familiarity with computers by organizing seminars in various fields such as raising children, agriculture, and women’s health, using the technology at the center.
Kholoud is one of those who was able to improve her digital fluency with the help of ACTED. Before, she had been a fresh graduate who faced difficulties advancing in society because of financial and cultural limitations in getting experience with technology. “Today, I cannot see my life without Internet, and technology which is something I did not expect before”. Labibah was able to gain familiarity in using e-learning applications which allowed her to help not only her own children but her neighbour’s children as well.