Since 2007, Israel has imposed an illegal blockade on Gaza, restricting the flow of people, goods, and aid to the densely populated territory and effectively cutting off 1.6 million Palestinian civilians from jobs, medical care, and educational opportunities in the West Bank and beyond. This has had a devastating effect on the Gazan economy and the quality of life of its citizens, and higher education has not escaped unharmed. UNESCO has reported that students are increasingly being forced into dropping out as tuition fees become unaffordable, which in turn impacts on the quality of education provided (60% of university funding is derived form tuition fees). Seven universities and colleges were damaged in the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive, with efforts to repair and rebuild severely restricted by the ongoing embargo on building materials. Students from Gaza are now virtually absent from higher education institutions in the West Bank, where once they made up almost 35% of the student body.
This isolation has a wider implication for Gaza's population, 65% of whom are under the age of 25, than a simple barrier to their right to an education. As Max Gaylard, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory noted, higher education is absolutely critical to the development and functioning of Palestinian society, particularly in areas such as engineering and medicine. What's more, Gaylard warns, isolating Gaza's youth from the rest of the world and depriving them of this basic right could prove disastrous for long term prospects for peace: "A rapidly growing society, becoming poorer, that is subject to restrictions on education will encourage extremism in its worst forms".
In 2011 students from the University of Sheffield voted to do what small amount they could to help break the blockade and overcome the increasing isolation it's creating by establishing links between our Students' Union and the Islamic University of Gaza. Through these links we hope to do what we can to mitigate the effects of the blockade: we will stand in solidarity with our fellow students at the IUG in times of especial hardship or conflict, allow students from both institutions to understand another culture and gain a different perspective on student life, and provide otherwise restricted opportunities through exchange and academic cooperation. As Malaka Mohammed, a student at the IUG, puts it:
"Twinning is the chain that feeds us with experience and knowledge. Since there are no limits our lives and our experiences become mutual and reciprocal: we can communicate to share our experiences, cultures, obstacles, histories, etc. For me, twinning, especially as it is the first such program with a UK university, opens the gate of hope and life that tomorrow will be better. We break the artificial borders and communicate easily to reach a point where we are all one world, the same humanity, and the only goal we have is to spread peace, love and knowledge."
In line with these goals, this webpage has been created to help bring the experience students at the IUG closer to students at the University of Sheffield. Below is a list of websites which feature the blogs, photography, poetry, creative writing, and other such works of students at the IUG. We will also endeavour to display a collection of noteworthy entries directly here on the website. We believe this will have benefits for students both in Sheffield and in Gaza: as well as providing an increased readership for the bloggers, the readers will gain an important perspective on the experience of education under occupation and, hopefully, an insight into a people so often presented either as victims or aggressors, but never as students.
If you wish to learn more about the twinning process, would like to be put in direct contact with a student at the IUG, or have any other questions regarding the Union's policies on Palestine, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
[NB - The University of Sheffield Students' Union accepts no responsibility for the content of any external webpage. Any views presented are solely property of the individual blogger.]
|Name||Blog Name||Blog link||Facebook / Twitter link|
|Malaka Mohammed||Freedom to Palestine||malaka383.wordpress.com||Facebook
|Fidaa Abu Assi||Gaza in Words||fidaaabuassi.com|
|Isra Migdad||Gaza/ Sense of Victory||isramigdad.wordpress.com|
|Anas Hamra||Ans Red||AnsRed.blogspot.com||Facebook
|Rawan Yaghi||I Am||rawan-hp.blogspot.com||Facebook
|Khawthar Abu Hani||gazalamps.wordpress.com||Facebook
|Soha Abdel Wahab||-|
|Nour El Borno||crossthets.wordpress.com|
|Rana Baker||Palestine: Memory Drafts and Future Alleys||ranabaker.wordpress.com|
|Lina H Sh||Live From Gaza||livefromgaza.wordpress.com|
|Noor Ghanem||It's not only a dream: persist, resist and exist||noor7-mydream.blogspot.com/|