June 17, 2009 - Education Under Occupation

Imagine studying all night for your first Physics test. You get up early to work out a few more sample problems. You walk to school nervous about doing well on the exam. You get to a checkpoint and are told that you cannot pass.

Imagine studying hard in high school in preparation for taking the Tawjihi, the high school exit exam. (I’ve been told that the day Tawjihi results are posted is the second most important day in a Palestinian’s life, the marriage day being the first.) You study intensely in the months leading up to the exam. You feel just about ready. You cram for one more night and on the morning of the exam you anticipate taking the test because you know you have prepared well. The Israeli military declares the area where the exam is to be administered a closed military zone.

Imagine you attain your goal of 95% on the Tawjii’hi so that you can pursue your dream of studing medicine. The Israeli military closes your university for the next 4 years.

Imagine you live in the “seam zone”, i.e. West Bank land that has been lassoed by the Wall so that it is continuous with Israel. You need to pass through a gate to get to your university. The open hours of the gate are brief, irregular and unpredictable. You frequently are unable to attend your classes.

Imagine that it is after classses on Thursday afternoon (the end of the week in Muslim countries) and you eagerly anticipate going home for the week end. (You would rather live at home which is only 45 minutes by car from your school, except that the checkpoints make travel too uncertain and so you live in student housing near campus.) You wait two hours at the checkpoint. Your turn finally comes. You go through the turnstile and get pushed forward by people behind you. The soldiers get upset with this and tells you to go to the back of the line. You refuse. They handcuff you tightly and start to beat you. They spray your face with something that makes it feel as if it is melting from the fire-hot heat. They put you in a small dark room. You are finally released and you go back to Nablus to go to the hospital to have your eyes treated. After getting eye drops you head back to the checkpoint which is now much less crowded. You cross easily, but need to walk home since there are no more taxis running.

Imagine studing diligently the entirety of your junior year. Final exam week begins. You are arrested because you are told that you are suspected of being affiliated with Hamas. You miss all of your finals and are required to repeat the entire year at full cost.

These are just some of the stories of students from the incredibly beautiful Al Najah University in Nablus (www.najah.edu), one of the six universities in the West Bank. For more information about the difficulties students face in Palestine and the Right to Education campaign go to http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/


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