NEWS BLOG: March 9, 2009
Ramallah, West Bank — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced a new million-dollar scholarship program to help Palestinian students enroll at Palestinian and American universities.
Mrs. Clinton announced the Middle East Partnership Initiative during a visit to this Palestinian town last week. The four-year program will support about 10 scholarships each year for disadvantaged students to attend four-year courses at Palestinian universities. The program will also offer 25 “opportunity grants” to enable promising but disadvantaged young Palestinians to apply to American-accredited institutions in the United States or the Middle East, a State Department official told The Chronicle.
Once funds are approved by Congress, Mrs. Clinton hopes to begin the program in the 2010-11 academic year. The money is in addition to $900-million in aid to the Palestinian Authority announced by the secretary last week at the donors’ conference, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
During her visit to an American-sponsored English-language teaching program in Ramallah, Mrs. Clinton said the opportunity grants would create “a larger pool of capable young men and women from places like the West Bank and Gaza” who can “compete along with students in other countries for the opportunity to further their academic training in America.” The secretary spoke on a youth program aired by Palestinian Authority TV.
Last year several Palestinian students from Gaza who were awarded Fulbright scholarships ran into difficulty entering Israel to complete the application process, and two of them were subsequently denied entry visas to the United States on security grounds.
Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, said efforts were being made to enable Gazans to participate in American-sponsored projects despite the security challenges.
“We’ve had several dozen Gazans participate in our programs over the last few months, both educational and professional,” said Ms. Schweitzer-Bluhm.
“It is difficult,” she said. “It’s a challenge to bring Gazans to participate in these programs, but we go through great lengths to try and facilitate their participation, and we have advance coordination with the Israelis to get them the necessary permits.” —Matthew Kalman