The blockade of the Palestinian territory by Israel and ongoing conflict with the Gazan authorities means that Palestinian students are refused permission to study outside. However, with high unemployment and poor job prospects, many young Palestinians are keen to go as far in their education as possible.
The BBC reports on one young Palestinian who has been given the chance to attend Oxford University. Nineteen year old Rawan Yaghi has just won a scholarship to study linguistics and Italian at Jesus College. This has been made possible for Rawan with the support of a number of organisations. The university has agreed to waive 60% of Rawan’s tuition fees and the rest will be paid by three charities – The Hani Qaddumi Scholarship Foundation, the AM Qattan Foundation and the Hopeing Foundation, which helps support Palestinian refugees.
For her living costs, the students of Jesus College have voted to establish a new Junior Members Scholarship. Each student has agreed to contribute £3.90 per term and this clubbing together will provide Rawan with 6,300 pounds annually. Emily Dreyfus, the Oxford graduate who came up with the idea, said that students were happy to make a “very small contribution...which has a disproportionately positive benefit”. Speaking about Emily’s idea to raise money amongst the students, Rawan told the BBC that she appreciated the belief in people which has given “someone like me a life-changing chance”.
Rawan currently attends the Islamic University, where she is studying English Literature. Education is highly valued by Palestinian families and there are no fewer than seven universities for the relatively small Gazan population of 1.7 million. Nevertheless, to be able to study abroad is a rare opportunity and Rawan will probably have to travel through Egypt to reach the UK.
However, Rawan is adamant that when her four years in Oxford come to an end, she will want to return to Gaza. And she is keen to tell people in the UK more about her homeland, so that Gaza is not simply viewed as a “war zone”. Rawan admits that it’s a difficult place, but also says that the territory can be “interesting and adventurous”. And though the conflict brings an inevitable “ugliness” to life, she is determined she will not turn her back on her homeland.