|R2E CAMPAIGN, BIRZEIT UNIVERSITY, 15 MARCH 2009On March 10th and 11th 2009, the Right to Education Campaign student volunteers hosted EUSA President, Adam Ramsay, Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Guy Bromley and Vice-President of Societies and Activities, Naomi Hunter during their visit to Birzeit, which came as part of the twinning agreement between the two universities.
Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) passed a motion in 2005, to twin with Birzeit University Student Council (see text of the agreement here). The twinning agreement acts not only as an institutionalized form of solidarity between the two student governments, but also as a commitment from EUSA to support all Palestinian students and teachers who are struggling to live, work and study under the Israeli occupation. So far EUSA has demonstrated this support in various ways, including organizing a delegation to visit Birzeit in 2005, setting up a Masters’ scholarship for a Birzeit graduate to study at Edinburgh University for a year and raising awareness on campus of obstacles to Palestinian education under military occupation, including the hosting of an annual Right to Education Week and taking part in the recent nationwide student occupations in solidarity with Gaza.
The three EUSA representatives met with the Right to Education Campaign to get an update on current obstacles facing Palestinian education due to the Israeli Occupation. A meeting was then held with Birzeit students to hear personal stories, compare the differences in student politics in Palestine and Scotland and to discuss ways of activating the twinning agreement between the two universities. As there is currently no official student council at Birzeit University until the elections take place next month, the students met with Right to Education Campaign (R2E) student volunteers and members of all student societies.
The Edinburgh students outlined the activism which has taken place at their university recently, particularly in relation to the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, in which over 1,300 Palestinians were killed and a number of educational institutions were destroyed. In response to this, a group of students got together to ‘occupy’ a room to make certain demands on their university, many of which were met, including bringing an end to relations between the university and companies which support the illegal occupation and scholarships for five Palestinian students.
The EUSA representatives left Birzeit with a lot of information and promised to make efforts to make the entire student body of Edinburgh University more aware of the struggle for education in Palestine. They suggested publishing of articles in their student newspapers, encouraging more direct forms of exchanging of information between students and both student councils.
They also met with the Palestinian and Arabic Studies (PAS) Program and Student Affairs to learn more about the situation for foreign students in entering the country and the kinds of facilities available for Edinburgh Students at Birzeit University, as well as the kinds of social and cultural activities Palestinian students organise in the university.
The Edinburgh students were hosted by Birzeit students, who took them on a tour of the university, Birzeit village, Jifna village, the old city of Ramallah, Amari’ refugee camp and Jalazon refugee camp. The EUSA representatives said their visit had been enlightening and they are looking forward to re-activating the twinning agreement between the two universities.