"A revolutionary without education is nothing"

In contact with Palestinians, it did not take much to realise how much education is worth for them. “Education is the only resource we have”, they say. One of our friends the students of Burin school know well told us, he said to them “Guys, the occupier want you to be uneducated, because it is easier to control you if you don’t understand what is happening around you”; while a former student of the same school, who is now very engaged for the young in the village explained to me “We need to be educated in order to fight the occupation. A revolutionary without education is nothing”.

One of our priorities as International Accompaniers is to provide protective presence in schools. In that context, we cooperate with UNICEF in the frame of the Access to Education programme and provide data about violations of human rights (HR) and international humanitarian law (IHL) in relation with children. The UNICEF programme is coming to an end, but the school we work with have expressed the wish to pursue our cooperation with them and EAPPI is looking for other resources to finance this activity.

At the moment, we work basically with three secondary schools: As-Sawiya / Al-Lubban, Burin and Urif, which have recorded massive problems due to settler attacks as well as incursions, harassment, intimidation and arrests of students by the army.

Providing protective presence in schools means concretely that we walk the school run with the students, that we visit the schools during the breaks and that we attend specific events if invited. We keep in close contact with the headmasters and meet them regularly to discuss their needs for our presence.

Today, I will focus on As-Sawiya, since it is the school we had most interaction yet. It is situated at sight distance from the settlement of Eli and next to Road 60, the main connection between Ramallah and Nablus, which is heavily trafficked. The students coming from Al-Lubban have to walk along the road to reach the school and are so exposed to harassment and violence by settlers and the army. We accompany them on the school run two or three times a week, in order to show that there are international eyes watching.

School run As-Sawiya

Since we arrived, we have seen the army only once, though we have been told that they regularly install flying checkpoints, check the students’ bags, threaten them and sometimes even arrest them. The most recent case happened between January and March 2014. After a settler had accused students of throwing rocks on his car, showing a picture of the broken windshield, the army increased the presence of soldiers at the school, set up flying checkpoints and entered the schoolyard. The soldiers picked out one student haphazardly because of the colour of his T-Shirt. He was arrested and detained for two weeks without any proof of any crime. It is obvious that such threats have an impact on the students’ ability to concentrate on their studies.

students As-Sawiya

As International Accompaniers, we feel warmly welcome every time we visit the school. The students greet us smiling and often talk with us for a while. Also the teachers and, most of all, Adnan Hussen, the headmaster, have repeatedly underlined the importance of our presence, since they notice a serious change in the soldiers’ behaviour when we are here. Last Monday, 21. April, they were happy to inform us that no incident had happened since two weeks, though sadly, yesterday, 24. April, we learned that the army had patrolled around the school the day before. Fortunately, there was no further incident to report.

In the short time we worked together, in addition to the tea and coffee they offer us each time we come for a visit, they also have invited us to attend lectures, to talk with the students and to participate in festivities.

Thus we attended the sports festival last Monday, the 21. April. This was an ideal occasion to get in touch with normality; to see that in spite of all the suffering, there are also cheerful moments in Palestine. The atmosphere was relaxed and the students as well as the staff seem to enjoy the shows given. At a moment, they even asked us to take part in a basketball match between the teachers, which was really much fun.

For more pictures and an article about the festival (in Portuguese),
see my team mate Carina’s blog

The Headmaster Adnan's Speech
Image credit: C. Neves

Piled up Students

We are Palestine

We are Palestine

Image credit: C. Neves

Dabka dancing Shebab
Image credit: C. Neves

Unfortunately, we had to leave the festival early because of an emergency call: clashes in Burin school, the army was shooting sound bombs and teargas into the schoolyard. But this is another story.

soldiers in front of the school
Image credit: I. Evje

Teargas grenades found in the schoolyard

See the pictures in the Gallery

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I have been sent to Palestine and Israel by HEKS-EPER and Peace Watch Switzerland as Human Rights Observer in the frame of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the sending organizations. If you like to publish the information contained in this article or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communication Officer eappi-co@alqudsnet.com or Peace Watch Switzerland palestine@peacewatch.ch More information about our program can be found on www.eappi.org and www.peacewatch.ch

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