work and Advocacy
Kul Aaam wa Antum Bikhiir and Ramadan Kareem from the team at Right to Education!
|Right2edu and Advancement at Tomorrows Youth Organisation|
As I am not a Muslim so I asked Ravina to describe Ramadan in a sentence for this blog she said; “dehydratingly amazing.” I would agree with her, I would also like to add that I am impressed she didn't pass out. As I think it is only appropriate if someone celebrating the holiday provides an account therefore Ravina will write about Ramadan exclusively in a following post.
As a result of our earlier work planning Right to Education was set for a busy few weeks visiting education organisations in order to document violations of Palestinian education. The first on the list was a visit to Addmeer, luckily not very far away from our base. Addmeer provides legal aid and support for Palestinian political prisoners. Child political prisoners are of particular interest to us. Indeed political activity that would normally be accepted and encouraged in the U.K is punished harshly in the occupied territory. A majority of the occupied territory is administered under Israeli military law, therefore children are arrested, detained and charged without any special child provisions made such as; presence of a guardian. Addmeer also reports of prisoners experiencing ill-treatment such as physical and psychological abuse. This and the denial of legal counsel often results in forced confessions. Prison sentences can be as much as 20 years for throwing stones; a popular activity of Palestinian children who use stone throwing as a means of protest, these small rocks carry very little threat compared to the might of one of the greatest armies in the world. A stay in custody or prison does not simply affect a child for a few years like it might in the U.K but in fact renders them incapacitated for a lifetime. When prison sentences are as long as these, children miss out on education, social development and normal psychological development. When they are released they return as adults who have been deprived of their right to education and thus their right to childhood. In fact this theme rings true for most of the research we conducted. A United Nations employee of the education cluster in Gaza told us over Skype that it was not the resources that stunted child development but the psychological impact, as did Suhad al-Jabi from the Tomorrows Youth Organisation in Nablus. In any part of the world providing support whilst not taking the victim away from the abuser would make strange bedfellows, but, this is what happens in the occupied territories, Suhad tells us. Palestinian is equipped with counsellors, teachers even psychiatrists if necessary but the military occupation; the abuser, is still engaged with it's victim.
In Nablus we also visited Najah University which is itself a very impressive university with a huge library and a beautiful campus. There we met and talked with Alaa' Abu Dhair head of the Right to Education wing at Najah University. Alaa' talked us through the recent Intifada period and the grave violations to education. We agreed however that this has been documented extensively. Something new was needed to interest an audience and stand out in an internet already saturated with Israeli violations. I proposed that a point of interest might be that Palestinians were highly educated despite the occupation. Palestinians have some of the highest education rates in the region. Imagine what they would achieve without the occupation?! With this in mind we are have arranged a few activities which we hope will provide material for an audience and deliver something new. Firstly we are searching for Right to Education success stories; individuals who have succeeded despite the occupation. Secondly we are planning to visit a refugee camp in Nablus where we will emulate the U.N's 'message in a bottle campaign' in Gaza. Instead we are going to ask each child 'what they want to be when they grow up' and send the message off in a helium balloon. I am optimistic about these two activities and believe they will generate lots of publicity and interest in the campaign!
|Najah University Library. Busy even in Summer!|
Outside of work I think the main thing for me has been travelling on weekends, meeting people and practicing Arabic. I studied some Fusha Arabic at university and it has taken me a while to comprehend Palestinian arabic but thanks to Wafa' and Ous I have been slowly getting to grips with the different pronunciations and new vocabulary. My sister is actually in Ghana with International Service (she copied me) and on their blog they introduced everyone, I think this a great idea so here goes...
|One of Ravina's "how random!" moments. Chocolate factory visit.|
Wafa'- Wafa' is from Nablus. Like vegetarians, vegans and medical students it will be one of the first things she will tell you. She has graduated in engineering (mabrok!). Wafa' is always laughing and one of our laughing highlights include Ravina flying from one end of the Berzeit bus to the other. Wafa' grew up in a refugee camp and has told Ravina and I many stories about her life during the Intifada.
Ous – As well as a volunteer and student Ous is also a businessman. Ous also seems to know everyone in Ramallah and Birzeit so I expect to be seeing him on the Forbes rich list soon. Ous also introduced us to Snobar, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Ravina – Ravina is very enthusiastic slightly late volunteer. I think she was late at birth. Her favourite phrase is ”how random”. Other highlights include grandpa kid and countless giggling in taxis for God knows what reason. She also loves taking pictures on her phone and don't worry she has a portable phone charger for when it gets low.
Sara – Sara is our team leader. Sara has been endlessly determined to get us into places so we have her to thank for all our fieldwork and interviews!
Rachael (me)- Whilst avoiding sunburn and Ravina's camera I can usually be found interrogating Wafa' about her life and general arabic things.