Thursday, July 29, 2010

Right to Education International Student Conference

The first of its kind, this conference aims to build and reinforce a global network of students who all share the concept of ensuring the right of education to students in Palestine. It was held over the course of two days, Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th, and due to mundane elements such as exams, we were only able to attend the first day. In its own words, "this conference will provide a much needed forum to share knowledge and experiences as well as discussing future strategies."

Some background info:
The Right to Education Campaign (R2E) was established in the late 1970's as a means for providing legal advice to students and faculty members alike. It became more institutionalized during the first Intifada. It encapsulates three basic aims:
  • To raise the awareness of students by activities such as workshops and documentations
  • To provide reliable information about education under occupation
  • To build an international campaign in support of the right to education for Palestinians. This was demonstrated in two speaking tours in the recent years.
The conference started off with introductory speeches and then a Reporting Session, in which students around the world gave reports on student activism. Presentations by BZU students were also given, with topics ranging from the impact of the Wall on education, the effect of checkpoints on education, and the growing popularity of academic boycott. There was live twinning with Gaza's university students, who obviously couldn't attend. Random fact- the last time a student "legitimately" studied at Birzeit Uni from Gaza was in 2004. There's a documentary about the student, called Lucky Ahmad.

The convention, although long, (10-5 pm) was an engrossing and interesting experience. It's main objectives are found here, and we'll just pick a couple.
" To exchange knowledge and resources amongst the different campus organizers specifically on building effective solidarity links between students in Palestine and across the world; and initiating campus BDS campaigns with successful follow-up
"To establish important links between international activists and Palestinian student activists."

The second day encompassed seven different workshops where the participants were able to share experiences, tools of analysis, and recommendations. They were:
  • BDS
  • Media and Writing
  • Gaza (by video conference)
  • Public speaking and presentations
  • Why Apartheid?
  • November Week
  • Challenges faced on campuses
We're pretty miffed we missed out on that, but such is the student life. The first day was fascinating in that we got to engage with different foreigners about the conflict. For some, it was their first time coming to the Occupied Territories, and they admitted that it was pretty overwhelming learning about the different aspects of life under occupation. Others were leaning towards the whole "it's a religious thing" but we hoped our arguments convinced them otherwise.

Best part of the conference? Meeting Jody McIntyre, no doubt :)

Note of bother (since we can't help ending anything but in negativity): Birzeit students, where you at? Pretty sad/embarrassing that such a low (very low) number turned out.

UPDATE: We're linked over at fakhoora.org

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