Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Defending the Right To Read

Back in 2008, UNICEF was warning that thousands of children, who make up more than half of the besieged population of the Gaza Strip, are being denied access to a proper education because of the Israeli blockade.

The obstacles facing educators are many. Around 88% of the 221 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 82% of government schools have to operate on a shift system to accommodate the high number of students. But Israel’s Operation Cast Lead has weakened education opportunities further, destroying 18 schools and kindergartens and damaging at least 280 more. Six of the government schools destroyed are in North Gaza alone, affecting almost 9,000 students who had to relocate to other schools. Six university buildings were also destroyed and 16 were damaged by the military offensive. Blockade restrictions have made it difficult to invest in building new schools or to repair damaged schools.

Whilst Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights theoretically offers the right of everyone "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," like so many other ‘universal’ rights this does not apply to the Palestinians of Gaza, who are also prevented from receiving ink, paper and other learning materials because of Israel’s blockade.

The Free Gaza (FG) Movement has therefore partnered with Al-Aqsa University to launch a “Right to Read” campaign, which is backed by the Progressive Librarians Guild in the US and aims to deliver textbooks and other educational supplies to universities throughout the occupied Gaza Strip via blockade-breaking shipments by boat from Cyprus.

FG describes this as “an act of solidarity and resistance to Israel’s chokehold on Gaza and attempt to deny Palestinians education “. Individuals can contribute one or more books for inclusion on an upcoming voyage and there is both a U.S. compiled wish list and a UK version on Amazon, which has been drawn up by the universities in Gaza. Alternatively, donations can be made to purchase books and help offset shipping costs.

Books can be sent directly to Cyprus at the following address:

Free Gaza Movement
Digenthios and Avgousta Court
Nigrid Street 6018 Apt. 203
Larnaca, CYPRUS

For more information contact Dina Kennedy (dkennedy [at] freegaza.org) or Darlene Wallach (darlene [at] freegaza.org)

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