‘Break the Siege’ is a campaign by the Right to Education at Birzeit University to overcome the hardship faced by Palestinian students and educational institutions, due to the international economic embargo against the Palestinian Government since January 2006. 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.
A report on the scope and implementation of the ‘Right to Education’, as recognized by UNESCO and ICESCR, [http://portal. unesco.org/ education/ en/file_download .php/c144c1a8d6a 75ae8dc55ac385f5 8102erighteduc. pdf ] , holds that education should be “accessible to all” including “physical” and “economic” accessibility (p.6), and that “the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved” (p.13). The report also highlights the obligation of States to “take steps” towards the full realization of these rights.
Economic Sanctions and Birzeit 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 we 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.
What you can do
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 every penny will go the a student in need.
Average cost of student fees: USD $650 per semester
Average cost of student accommodation: USD $175 per semester
Average cost of student materials (books etc): USD $175 per semester
Average cost of transport: USD $211 per semester
Please send a cheque in USD payable to ‘ Birzeit University Fund’ to the following organizations which have already established tax-deductible mechanisms for providing donations to Birzeit University . On the ‘subject line’ of the cheque, please write ‘Break the Siege’.
In the USA :
K. Fred Ajluni, J.D.
Attorney and Counselor
K & S Mall
1800 West 14 Mile Road
Tel: +1 248 288 3636Fax: +1 248 3770
In the UK :
Friends of Birzeit
1 Gough Square
London EC4A 3DE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7832 1340
Fax: +44 (0)20 7832 1349
If you would like to specify the kind of student to receive the donation (eg. male or female, undergrad or postgrad, specific course) please write to right2edu@birzeit. edu , and we will channel your cheque accordingly. You will also receive further information about the student selected to be the recipient of the fund.
Right to Education Campaign
PO Box. 14
"Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights" - UNESCO, Committee on implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
"The Separation Wall doesn‘t only separate the West Bank geographically, it also separates us socially and culturally and we need to resist that through education." - Fourth-year student at Birzeit University , from Qalqilia.