The coronavirus pandemic and two lockdowns are threatening to sharply increase university dropout rates in the Gaza Strip even as classes resumed in August.
According to a new report by the charity Refugees International, many students have not paid tuition for the forthcoming academic year, indicating they may not return.
“Thirty percent of students dropped out this semester, and only 10 percent paid the full tuition fees,” one university vice president in Gaza told researchers.
From March until May, Gaza saw a near-total lockdown, shutting down businesses and schools and most of the economy. Then in early August, as students began to attend classes in-person at universities, an upswing in Covid-19 infections led the government to institute another total lockdown on Aug. 24—only supermarkets were exempted.
While it is too early for concrete data, anecdotal evidence and interviews with university officials, students and researchers point to a decline in enrollment due to the two lockdowns and deteriorating economic conditions in the strip, accelerating a drop-out trend over the past few years.
The main reasons are financial and technical, officials say.
“The situation in universities is getting worse as well as the dropout rate, which will keep increasing if the situation remains the same, with the high levels of poverty and unemployment alongside the Israeli blockade and the Palestinian Authority’s (incompetence),” said Adnan Abu Amer, head of the political science department at Ummah University, in Gaza.
40 Percent Drop-Out Rate
Ahmed Kordia, the head of resource development at University College of Applied Sciences in Gaza, says he’s already seeing a dropout rate for his university of about 40 percent for the fall semester.