Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
This quote is like an inscription on a locket that I will always wear by my heart. Students in Palestine in general and in Gaza especially open their eyes each morning with only one dream, to get the best education we can. Opportunities to improve your life are so limited for Palestinians living under occupation or in refugee camps. There are no unemployment benefits and jobs are so scarce. Other than having the right “connections,” education is really the only way for us to “get ahead.” The Israelis can bomb our houses and towns, but they cannot destroy our drive to become educated and strive for our dreams.
I did well in high school, getting high marks. When you complete your final year of high school here, called the tawjihi, you choose one of two “tracks” in university: science (medicine, engineering, etc.) and what is called humanities in the West. Which one you choose depends both on your grades and your passion. I am a creative person, so I chose the literary track, and English literature is the primary major available. It seemed like a good choice anyway because I love the English language. I followed my heart and my family encouraged me.
The Islamic University of Gaza is widely considered the best in the Strip. Studying there was and still is a great achievement, but it has many strict, unyielding rules. In particular, registration time each semester was a period of high tension. You choose the class you really want or need, only to be told it’s closed. So you chase around after the head of the department, trying to get him or her to let you join. Being told a class is closed, no matter what, can sabotage your whole schedule!
The worst year in my university life was the last one, for many reasons. Among these were the long hours for my compulsory translation course. Sometimes, I was required to translate articles for six hours straight. I was exhausted!
When final exams began, I was ready, with one clear aim in my mind: graduate and find a good job. Then came the time for the exam results to be released: 8-9:30 p.m. This is the worst moment in an IUG student’s life – it’s like the Day of Judgement! With great relief, I learned that all my results were very good, even excellent—except for one.
When I looked at my results, one of the eight classes was missing. That was strange; where was the eighth? Had I done so badly in it that it wasn’t even counted? I went to the course lecturer. Rather nervously, he told me my exam paper had been lost.
When I heard his words I felt as if my brain was short-circuiting, like the whole universe had stopped. I stared at him and watched his mouth move, incredulous and in another world. Somehow I found myself sitting on a chair.
The lecturer said that perhaps, because I had taken two exams on the same day, my paper had gotten mixed up with some others, from the other class. I asked how it could have been lost when my name and university ID were written on it? He told me he would find it. I didn’t believe him.
I went to the lecturer who had taught the other course. We spent half an hour searching through all of the exam papers in vain. When he realized we weren’t going to find my paper, he went silent, thinking. Finally, he told me I would have to take the course and examination again!
I stepped out of the room crying, not knowing what to do to defend my rights. I pled my case to the head of the Students Affairs Department, but fruitlessly. It is a university policy that you can't graduate unless you complete your courses – and that includes the examinations.
By that time my graduation ceremony had come and gone; my friends celebrated without me. It was Ramadan (a holy month in Islam) and I was so depressed I couldn’t even join my family to break the fast each day.
But all was not lost and I did not give up. I enrolled in the course again during the summer, completed it and got an excellent grade. And guess what? My graduation ceremony was Saturday.
The next chapter of my life involves finding out what "educating a generation" really means.
Mentor: Palden Jenkins
Posted October 11, 2016