Break the siege – a campaign to help Palestinian students continue their studies | babelmed
Break the siege – a campaign to help Palestinian students continue their studies Print
Break the siege – a campaign to help Palestinian students continue their studies | babelmed
Photo Jamal Arouri
The current financial crisis in the occupied territories is so endemic that it effectively poses a barrier to students' right to education by depriving them of the ability to attend university or depriving them of the adequate standards of teaching, facilities and environment provided by the university.

Birzeit University usually receives USD$1.5m from the Palestinian Authority (PA) every year as part of the normal package given to all universities proportional to their size. Since the economic blockade, the PA was able to transfer a mere drop of this fund leaving the University short of USD$1.2m. As a result, staff salaries were halved for two months and the annual budget is severely affected.

Students and their parents are also facing financial hardship either by being directly deprived of salaries or indirectly affected by the grinding down of the local economy. International organizations report a 30% increase in poverty in the West Bank since economic sanctions have were imposed. As active members of society, students face the consequences of the overall halt in the economy and the increasing destitution of their families. In January 2007, a shopkeeper, Shukri Qot, outlines to Oxfam the domino effect facing the majority of Palestinians since economic sanctions were in place ('Poverty in Palestine: the Human Cost of the Financial Boycott', Oxfam, 2007):

"Three months ago my shop closed. I could not continue because of the debts of my customers became too great. This is the responsibility of the siege of the Palestinian government. Most of the villagers have not paid me the money they owe me. I sold my wife's jewelry to open my shop - now I have lost everything."

For the academic year 2006-2007, Birzeit allowed students to register and pay their fees in installments. By the end of the second term, some 3,000 students had not been able to pay the fees. This amounts to 43% of the entire student population in Birzeit University being in such hardship that the continuation of their studies is in jeopardy.

By the same stroke, the University is unable to provide its usual support for destitute students and has become more dependent than ever on student fees for covering its basic budgetary requirements such as salaries and general maintenance.

It is in these times of unprecedented economic hardship that have launched a campaign to allow Palestinians to at least maintain their basic right to education – a right that is as indispensable for the development of an individual as it is for a society, an economy and a nation.

The Right to Education Campaign calls for donations to be made, no matter how small, to the 'Break the Siege' fund through tax deductible mechanisms which ensures the hole sum will go the a student in need. (04/05/2007)