Despite a Blue Chip Education, Unemployed and Desperate in Palestine

/ 10 Feb 2020

Despite a Blue Chip Education, Unemployed and Desperate in Palestine

It was always my intention to continue my academic career and earn a master’s degree in London.

Finally, I achieved my dream at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2019.

I received a master’s degree in critical media and cultural studies for my dissertation on Palestinian cinema. I applied Russian literary scholar M.M. Bakhtin’s concept of the “chronotope,” which refers to the interconnectedness of time and space, to an analysis of two films: Wedding in Galilee (1987), the story of a Palestinian village under the rule of an Israeli military governor, and In Between (2016), the story of three young Arab women living in Tel Aviv. I investigated the relationship between the behavior and mobility of the main female characters in the films and the patriarchal social systems that curtail women’s  freedom.

I thought that my degree would open doors to job opportunities and a life career.

But I was wrong.

When I came back to Palestine in May, at first I was swamped preparing for my wedding.

Then my job search began. Being responsible for a household has made me desperate in that search. My husband works as a secretary in a government school in North Hebron. One salary is not enough to live a decent life in Palestine. Everything is very expensive. To make matters worse, Palestine has been in a financial crisis since early last year due to a decline in international aid and the withholding of tax revenues by Israel.

When I started, I applied to numerous jobs at Palestinian universities. I applied for a desirable teaching job and was told it was reserved for me, though administrators didn’t know if it would be full or part-time. I waited for a week, then another week, for official confirmation, but I heard nothing. So I called. They told me they only hire American professors.

This made me feel a certain kind of inferiority complex; even if I studied and worked at American liberal arts college (Bard College) and possess a British master’s degree, I’m told I’m not qualified compared to foreign academics.

“Even if I studied and worked at American liberal arts college (Bard College) and possess a British master’s degree, I’m told I’m not qualified compared to foreign academics.”

Jobs.ps has become my most-visited website. There I find plenty of vacancies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The number of openings in Ramallah—more than 10,000, compared to around 1,300 in Hebron, where I live—confirmed that I need to take a different approach. In Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority, you can find several jobs at nongovernmental organizations and other institutions.

My friend who also recently married and moved to Hebron, the biggest city in Palestine, was similar shocked. Nearly all employment is linked to the government, and one procures government jobs through “wasta,” an Arabic term meaning “clout” or “whom you know.” My wasta is limited. Worst of all, wasta obliterates transparency. Without transparency, you can hardly plan for the future.

After several months of sending out résumés, I landed a position as a part-time writing instructor at Palestine Technical University-Kadoorie Arroub Branch. The pedagogical style is very traditional. Students memorize and recite their lessons. I attempt to cultivate individuality and critical thinking, but it’s an uphill battle. My biggest concern is that I am teaching in Arabic. I fear losing the English skills that I spent more than ten years developing.

I feel very sad for the students. The teaching style does not hone critical thinking or encourage analytical thinking or freedom of thought. The students do not have enough confidence to express their ideas, thoughts or criticize any issue surrounding them. I attempted to push the students to think and voice their thoughts. But the traditional educational style has built barriers in front of them. In addition, the job only covers around a quarter of my bills.

A Ph.D. program is probably my best avenue of escape. I am not certain about what I would research, however.

Sometimes I go back to the books, slides and lectures from when I was studying for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They recall a hopeful time, a time of promise. They have become my place to escape from reality.




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  1. Hala Hadid says:

    “A Ph.D. program is probably my best avenue of escape. I am not certain about what I would research, however.” I think you just answered your own question with the previous paragraph when you said “The teaching style does not hone critical thinking or encourage analytical thinking or freedom of thought. The students do not have enough confidence to express their ideas, thoughts or criticize any issue surrounding them. I attempted to push the students to think and voice their thoughts. But the traditional educational style has built barriers in front of them”


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