I'm one of 5 volunteers currently based in Abu Dis for 3 months as part of the EVS (European Voluntary Service) scheme. So far, there has been 4 volunteers who made up the 1st group of EVS volunteers - they are now back in the UK. The project lasts for 2 years and is funded (partly- we also need the financial support of people like you who read this blog!) by the European Commission. Over this time, the aim is to develop and strengthen friendship links between schools in Abu Dis and schools in Camden, London in order to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Palestine as well as furthering cross-cultural understanding of both Palestinian and British society.
This particular blog is to connect the students at Al-Quds University with universities in London. English conversation classes are held for English students at the university and also welcomes those who have an intermediate to advanced level of English.
Today we talked about university in Palestine and comparisons with universities in England. One of the things that came out was the fact the students pay a lot of money for their fees but they feel that often it doesn't help to secure a job when they finish their degree. Due to the occupation employment opportunities relating to your studies can be difficult to find.
They also stressed the importance of doing well in your 'Towjeehee' the final school exams for Palestinians. If you do extremely well (over 80%) you can choose any university, in this regard it is similar to the English higher education system. However, if you don't perform well in your Towjeehee exams there are no 2nd chances.
One of the guys told me that his friend left to study Medicine abroad in Germany. He succeeded in his degree but when he came back to Palestine he was told by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that he could not practice here because his Towjeehee grade was not high enough! I was surprised by this, but one of the women supported the decision saying that she didn't think he would make a good doctor because he didn't do well in his Towjeehee.
Palestinians often use the cliched metaphor of being 'between a rock and hard place'. The occupation represents the rock, maintaining some sort of miserable consistency, while the PA is the hard place that attempts to manage and administer services in highly bureaucratic, and some argue corrupt, ways.