It is hard for any recent graduate to get work once their scholastic career has come to an end. It is even harder in a conflict zone such as Gaza.
Due to ongoing conflicts and a heavy embargo, the economy in Gaza struggles to stay afloat. This situation leaves many unemployed, including its very large youth population who, with or without an education, are hard pressed to find work. Thankfully, for the brightest and most committed there are foundations and NGOs who step in and offer a chance for the youth of Gaza to improve themselves and aid their community, despite their limited borders. One of those foundations is Al Fakhoora (a programme of Education Above All).
The Al Fakhoora Scholarship programme was created as a response to the targeting of schools during the war on Gaza in 2009, as part of the effort to safeguard educational institutions and ensure access to education during times of aggression. The programme provides Palestinians with a chance to excel not only in education, but also in their careers and in leadership roles in their community. The Al Fakhoora Scholarship offers more than then a chance at a diploma; it also provides graduates with the opportunity to receive positions as trainees in high-demand fields and organizations. This provides graduates with needed experience, as well as a chance to further their prospects, giving them an edge in the labour market.
One of the agencies that some Al Fakhoora students receive training at is UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), an organization that offers education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance. These internship trainings started after the 2014 war in Gaza, as part of the response to the incursion, with the generous support of Qatar Development Fund, in order to strengthen adolescent leadership.
University graduate Ahmed Al-Attar, age 23, is one of the scholarship students who has found his training to be of great value to his community. He works as an administrative assistant at the UNRWA Rehabilitation Center for the Visually Impaired. “The Al Fakhoora Scholarship is a great opportunity to achieve my objectives and, luckily, the main objective and vision of Al Fakhoora intersects with my own, being helpful in society and becoming a leader in society. This scholarship has helped me build networks and reduce the gap between market needs and specialty gaps in economic needs, and has landed me a great job.” The Visual Rehabilitation Center offers books and school curriculums for the visually impaired, ranging from books with lager fonts to brail. On the subject of working with the visually impaired, Ahmed says, “It is very important for the future of these students, because I would be very sad that these students are not members of society; this venue opened for a better life for the future. It is normal in society that the state is taking care of people with disabilities, to give them their rights and to empower them. It is a hard job, but it’s worth it.”
The internship programme of Al Fakhoora also enables trainees to challenge cultural norms within their own community. This has been the case for university graduate Doaá Al-Ahwal, age 23, a project assistant trainee for the UNRWA Gender Initiative Project. Doaa recounts her beginnings, “It was a transformational experience. At first when I graduated, I didn’t have enough life and work skills. The programme has taught me many skills, such as managerial skills and technical skills. Before this I didn’t work with the community; this allows me to be a productive person. The programme gave me the ability to be to a confident person, to do my role without being scared to help my community.” About her work on the project she says, “The project is very important for the woman in Gaza, in their rights to be educated.”
The Al Fakhoora Scholarship programme shows that, given a chance, the skills and experience, students and graduates can fulfill and exceed their potential, for the benefit of themselves and their community.