The problems that are likely to stop the academic semester underway at the University of Bethlehem have not yet been overcome, Fides News Agency reported February 20, 2019. The University, run by the Brothers of the Christian schools and relaunched in the seventies also at the initiative of Pope Paul VI as a tool of formation of young Palestinians in the city where Jesus was born, is experiencing a difficult season marked by a strong contrast between the administrative authorities and student representatives, linked to the increase in management costs and the consequent increase in the financial contribution requested to the students enrolled in the courses.
“Even today,” said Michel Sansur, Executive Vice President of the University, “we are dealing with student representatives in order to find a solution to the problems and to convince everyone to return to classes and resume courses. If this does not happen, the Palestinian Ministry of Education has announced that it will cancel the semester of our University, given that the minimum number of hours required to recognize the academic validity of the courses has not been carried out.”
The crisis of the University of Bethlehem has increased in recent weeks. On February 6, Brother Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor of the University, announced the indefinite suspension of university courses in the spring semester – which began last January 18 – due to repeated interruptions of the lessons determined by members of the Senate of the students. The students’ representatives have until now considered inconclusive the negotiations started with the University Administration to face “the increase in fees for the formation of students of the faculties of Nursing and Educational Sciences.”
The increase in training fees had entered into force in 2016. The University of Bethlehem supports more than half the cost of the courses with money from external sources. In a letter recently published by the university authorities, it was also stated that the Catholic University “should receive 1.3 million dollars each year from the Palestinian Authority, but this is not happening.”
What worsens the difficult situation created at the University of Bethlehem is the increase in the costs of training activities outside the University – such as those carried out at Palestinian health facilities.
In January 2018 – the official sources of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reported – the US froze $65 million of a $ 125 million package of aid to the UN agency for relief and employment for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and on 25 August they cut 200 million dollars of aid to the Palestinian Authority destined in particular to government, health, education for civil society.