Gaza is the epitome of an ongoing conflict zone, with constant attacks and invasions over the years. Add a severe embargo and lack of limited natural resources, and it becomes clear that the people of Gaza face many issues within their own borders. Despite this the people of Gaza hold strong, especially its large youth population, who resist in the form of education.
“Education is the only weapon we have against the occupation,” says Mohammed Ankah, a 25-year-old university graduate. “Because of the limited opportunities in Gaza due to the economy, a higher education is the only way you can make sure you have a future.” This is the anthem for many youth who continue to strive for scholastic betterment despite a great many odds thrown their way.
University graduate Hazam Al Bitar, age 25, tells us, “Education can be used to change the minds of people around the world about my country. By being educated you can meet with other people in the world and share your stories, and repair the damage in how people see us.”
In order to forward this cause, many students apply for higher education opportunities overseas. However, these dreams are often dashed due to the restrictions of the occupation. This was the case for Hazam, “Because of the lack of freedom of movement due to the constant siege, I could not go to the University of Belgium even though I had a scholarship. This made me very disappointed, but I will not give up.”
Many university students and graduates are not satisfied to merely rest on their educational laurels but rather wish to give back to their community, often by working with NGO’s. The Al Fakhoora scholarship programme, in partnership with UNICEF, offers students and graduates training and paid internships. Mohammed (Monitoring and Evaluation) and Hazem (Social Media Specialist), along with their colleague, university graduate Isra Yaseen (Advocacy Specialist), are all trainees in said organization.
Isra Yaseen describes the work: “We have no natural resources but we have human resources, we have to employ them in the right way. I love the volunteer work here for the community. They need mentorship with someone who can employ their skills efficiently.” Mohammed Ankhah describes his work, saying, “Working with an international NGO is like jumping the stairs, without it you stay at home. Working with this organization develops my personal capabilities and opens more doors.”
Another opportunity the scholarship programme offers is the Virtual Majlis, in which students in Gaza can talk through social media with other students around the world. Isra Yaseen recounts, “When you talk to others you don’t feel like you are alone in the world, and you learn and expand outside the box. I love the debates and being able to be hear from the other side, and prove that you are fighting for something true.”
Despite living in a conflict zone, with limited resources and movement, the youth of Gaza continue to better themselves through education and opportunities which empower them and their community. Against all odds, there is a continued strength.