Fobzu is taking steps to respond to the new challenges brought about as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic spreading to Palestine. We are paying close attention to the impact of the virus on higher education for Palestinians, and working with our partners and colleagues in the UK and Palestine to mobilise urgent support for Palestinian students and teachers and put pressure on the UK government to fulfil its duties to the Palestinian people at this critical moment.
The pandemic in Palestine
On 26th March the WHO confirmed 75 cases of Coranavirus in the West Bank and 9 in Gaza. These figures are likely to continue rising. The arrival of Coronavirus in occupied Palestine and the declaration of the “state of emergency” on 5 March by the Palestinian Authority has led to the closure of all Palestinian universities and educational institutions. Courses have moved online and university departments are adapting teaching and assessment methods to this new reality. At the same time, Palestinians who are already in the grip of a financial crisis as a result of decades of de-development, economic strangulation and illegal blockade imposed by Israel’s occupation, face yet further economic disaster. Palestinians in Gaza, living under illegal siege for the past 12 years, expect disaster for the people residing in the strip if the virus spreads. The impact will hit Palestinian access to higher education hard, threatening the precarious funding of universities and making university education even more unaffordable for Palestinian families.
Education continues, keeping hope alive
Under occupation, denial of access to education is routine and systematic. Nevertheless, whether through popular education initiatives during the First Intifada, the scouting groups in exile or the tradition of self-education among political prisoners, the Palestinian people have a long history of organising learning in the most difficult circumstances. Responding to the closure of schools and universities today, Palestinians are undertaking a myriad of creative initiatives online and offline to keep learning alive. Fobzu, like other organisations dedicated to building international solidarity with the Palestinians, will continue working to ensure that a people living under an occupation determined to isolate them, do not face this new threat alone.