Haniyeh exempts students from school fees

Deposed Palestinian Authority premier cites reason as "alleviation to suffering" and "a step toward free education."

Haniyeh nice 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Haniyeh nice 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Deposed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas announced Thursday his government is exempting thousands of students from school fees, the latest step in a Palestinian power struggle. Haniyeh was addressing hundreds of teachers two days before the new school year begins. Following Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza in June, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas fired the Hamas-led government and installed a West Bank-based Cabinet of moderates led by Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. But Haniyeh's government continues to control Gaza and is vying for support with Abbas's Fatah. The fee exemption is part of the power struggle between the two. The Fayad government announced earlier it was exempting students from paying tuition. More than 200,000 students attend government schools in the Gaza Strip, according to Ministry of Education statistics for the last school year. "We had many requests from laborers to exempt their children from school fees," Haniyeh said. "To alleviate their sufferings, the government decided to exempt all school students up to high school from fees for this year ...This is a step toward free education for all," he told a cheering crowd. Also, Haniyeh announced the return to a unified weekend to "keep employees away from political wrangling," he told the crowd. The official weekend is now back to Friday and Saturday, though schools are in session six days a week. Up to now, in a particularly bizarre element of their struggle, the competing governments clashed over weekends for civil workers in the territories, each enforcing different days off for the workers under their control.