Scholarship for GazansPosted: April 6, 2013
I’m very proud to have been one of the students offering a small contribution to this scholarship, which aims to help fund the travels and tuition fees for a Gaza student each year:
Rawan Yaghi is a bookish 19 year old who, appropriately for a student of literature, arrives to meet me in Gaza with a text tucked under her arm.
It is a well-thumbed copy of Catch 22, Joseph Heller’s classic satirical novel on the absurdities of war; not an inappropriate choice for somebody who’s spent her entire life amid one of the Middle East’s most intractable conflicts.
But Rawan’s life is about to take a different direction. Currently a student at Gaza’s Islamic University, she has just won a scholarship to Oxford University to study linguistics and Italian.
She is looking forward to moving from the minarets of Gaza to the city of “dreaming spires”.
“I’m very excited. I can’t wait,” she smiles. “It’s going to be different but it’s going to be fun.”
Few have made such a journey.
But what is even more unusual is that all the other students at Oxford’s Jesus College will pay some of the cost of Rawan’s studies.
As part of the recently established Jesus College Junior Members Scholarship most of the other students have each agreed to pay £3.90 ($5.90) per term towards Rawan’s fees.
The scholarship was set up by Oxford graduate Emily Dreyfus after she realised that few Gazans had ever had the chance to study at one of Britain’s most prestigious universities.
I think this is great: it’s not about taking any “side” in some binary Arab-Israeli conflict. It simply recognises the limited – especially so for women – opportunities for education in Palestinian territories, made worse in recent years by the Israeli blockade. I wonder if other colleges will follow suit and offer scholarships for similarly under-funded regions.
It’s strange – Jesus College was set up by Elizabeth I to educate clergymen from Wales. As lovely as that part of the world is, Palestine is, I think, just a little more exotic.