Thursday, 29 January 2015

Marhaba! We are delighted to announce the first blog post in 9 months from the volunteers working on the Right to Education campaign at Birzeit University.

The Birzeit campus has been eerily quiet up until recently as students have had their exams. Nonetheless, we have still managed to organise meetings with various student campaigners and faculty members who told us more about the campaign and how we can work together in the coming semester.

Together we’ve brainstormed some fantastic ideas and have got the ball rolling with a few of them already. In the first week we set up an Instagram page 'Right2edu' which has already attracted over 100 followers - follow us if you aren't already! We have begun regular ‘Did you know?’ posts, which include facts about the R2E campaign to keep followers up to date, as well providing factual insight into the various violations of educational rights in Palestine. One of the volunteers has also begun research for an article that will involve interviewing students and teachers at Birzeit. The general theme will be what the right to education means to them and how they locate this right in terms of a free Palestine.

We thought about the various ways to raise awareness on campus: visual displays, presentations before lectures as well as stalls inviting students over to talk about the campaign and to discuss ways in which they can get involved. International awareness also has a crucial part to play in the campaign, we have been in touch with various universities in the UK who have agreed to organise Skype conferences and fundraising events in forthcoming months.

One of the highlights so far has been visiting the offices of Addameer, a prisoners’ rights organisation based in Ramallah. We had one of their advocates give us a very thorough and informative account of the egregious violations experienced by prisoners. It has been estimated that 1 in 5 of the Palestinian population have been incarcerated, and given the nature of our placement, we wanted to learn more about how this implicates students. We found out that students and staff members are regularly imprisoned for engaging in political activity. For many of the student prisoners, imprisonment has coincided with the exam period, forcing them to retake the semester upon release. The wider detrimental effects of imprisonment also mean that many students do not return to education.

All in all it’s been a fascinating past couple of weeks. We feel very welcome here and are incredibly privileged to be working with so many passionate campaigners at Birzeit. By the start of February, when all the students are back, we should have hit the ground running, so we are excited for what’s to come and of course, keeping you updated with our progress!

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