This year is the seventieth year since the Butler reform act in 1944, the act that established universal education in the UK. The government recognised that education is a right, not a privilege. Unfortunately this is not the case everywhere.
The week beginning the 17th November is Right 2 Education Week. A campaign set up by Birzeit University, a Palestinian University in the Occupied West Bank, it aims to raise awareness of the limits to Palestinian education and the basic rights they are denied for having the misfortune of being born in Occupied or blockaded lands.
In solidarity with the students of Palestine and to raise awareness of this serious issue, Lancaster Friends of Palestine Society is holding several events throughout the week, including a film screening of Tears of Gaza and background talks on many of the Israel-Palestine issues.
These talks aim to enrich your knowledge of the conflict and hopefully underscore the vulnerability of education there. Alongside this, there will be stalls with leaflets containing more information, and also cake stalls; the proceeds from sales and any donations that you may kindly make, will go to Project Hope, a Palestinian charity providing education and opportunities to Palestinian children.
Palestinians are denied ‘the right to education’ stipulated in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, due to this military occupation. This is a basic, legal right for all, denied to them by a government and military that ultimately decides their fate. Below is just some examples of how the right to education has been denied or severely limited to Palestinian students.
In Gaza, the illegal blockade has meant that children either cannot leave to further their education at university, or cannot return to their families if they do so. During the latest conflict this summer, 2,139 Gazan were killed, 490 of whom were children and 300 children wounded, more than 20,000 homes were reduced to rubble and Gaza’s infrastructure severely damaged. Including United-Nations schools being directly targeted by Israeli forces.
Before the latest conflict, education in Gaza was extremely limited with schools severely overcrowded, electricity and power only available for a few hours each day, and limited materials allowed to enter Gaza due to the illegal Israeli siege on the territory. Groups have found that the majority of Gaza’s children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety and trauma related disorders. Most children in Gaza know no other reality than war, conflict and bloodshed. Most have seen family members and friends killed as a result of Israel’s numerous offences against Gaza. Under such conditions, Palestinian students have not only been denied a variety of human rights- including their right to education- but have been denied their very childhood.
In the Occupied West Bank, students are frequently harassed and delayed on their way to school and university; these delays regularly last over two hours or they simply will not be allowed through. Of these cases, it is often during crucial exam period. Can you imagine having to enter through a military checkpoint on your way to university each day? At the end of 2012, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs counted that there was approximately 532 physical obstructions a month across the Occupied West Bank.
Students have to walk past heavily-armed Israeli forces and are subject to humiliating searches. It is well documented that students have been assaulted at checkpoints and can be detained by Israeli forces. It is hard to imagine what Palestinian students have to endure on a daily basis to access their right to education.
Between 2003 and 2005, the Israeli government was investing less than a third as much money in a Palestinian student than it did a Jewish student, and following 180 assaults on schools during that time IDF forces, 180 children and teachers died.
The plight of Palestinian education is a moral outrage, one that has continued for too long. No child should have their work despoiled by armed forces or wait hours at military checkpoints simply to get to school.
We aim to raise awareness of the abuses of Palestinians’ right to education, and donate some money for a very worthwhile charity helping to end these abuses. We ask that you support the Friends of Palestine in supporting the students of Palestinian for their right to education.
Please visit our Facebook page for more information on the week and events.
By Dan Morrison and The Friends of Palestine Society