First: To support educational achievement among Bethlehem students.
On March 9th, we held a celebration to honor Bethlehem-area students who have excelled in university studies. The goal of this event was to encourage Palestinian university students to achieve academic success. This was a unique opportunity to support higher education in the Bethelehem area.
The celebration, which honored students from both Bethlehem University and Al-Quds Open University, was held at Al-Sous Hall in Beit Sahour and sponsored by Jawwal Phone Company. In attendance were Ismail Farraj, Vice-Mayor of the Bethlehem area; Dr. Ibrahim Al-Shaer, President of Al-Quds Open University; Musa Darwish, representative of Bethlehem University; Ali Zaarir, representative of Jawwal; professors and student government members from Bethlehem University and Al-Quds Open University; and representatives from numerous governmental and private organizations in Bethlehem.
In this celebration, the Forum honored 120 students in all fields of study in Bethlehem University and Al-Quds University. Ramzi Odah, Director of the Forum, thanked the audience and the students, and encouraged private and public organizations to support the Forum. Dr. Al-Shaer asked private organizations to offer increased support to university students and to help them find suitable jobs after graduation, and he thanked the Forum for helping students complete their university education. Musa Darwish affirmed the importance of university education in the development of Palestinian society. The Ibdaa youth group presented a folkloric dance show; Aman Allah Ayesh recited poetry; Mohammed Al-Laham presented a sketch; and finally, honor certifications and small gifts were distributed to the students.
Second: To make information about universities and colleges inside and outside Palestine available to students.
We try to achieve this goal through our library program, which aims to increase the academic and general knowledge of high school and university students. This program is divided into three sections.
1. First, we run a specialized resource library with catalogs and information
about universities in Palestine and abroad, along with college guides. We also carry materials explaining the political, economic and social circumstances of the universities' home countries. This program aims to provide students with information about higher education institutions; their academic programs, tuition costs, application procedures, etc.; the conditions of the countries in which they are located; and whether they are recognized by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. We also provide information about centers for foreign language study. The library contains more than 1,500 items. Over 200 students have visited our office to use the library's resources and receive academic counseling from our staff, and we also conduct workshops at local schools using the library's materials.
2. Our second library program is a public lending library for students.
Although the collection is relatively small (800 books), we try to include a wide variety of political, economic and educational materials. In addition to books and magazines, we offer brochures with information about NGOs in the Bethlehem area.
3. Our third program is a bookstore for students. We negotiate with a prominent publisher to make discounted books available to students through our office. This program is vital to students, since there are no high-quality bookstores in the Bethlehem area. The store currently stocks more than 3,000 books.
Third: To provide financial assistance to students.
We offer several forms of financial aid to Palestinian students. In early February, we recruited and selected seven students to fill work-study positions in our office. The students work 15 hours per week, for one semester, assisting with many of our programs.
Four: To help students develop their skills and talents, and give them opportunities to use their abilities in the larger community.
We work toward this goal by offering workshops and lessons in on a variety of subjects – cultural, artistic, technical and linguistic.
1. Language courses. In cooperation with local and international volunteers, we offer foreign language workshops to help students develop practical communication skills. Beginning in February, we offered English lessons to more than 25 children ages 12 to 14, from Deheisha and Aida Refugee Camps as well as local towns. Classes were offered free of charge, since many students come from low-income families. Also in February, we began a 30-hour class for 20 beginning English students aged 14-17, taught by a local volunteer. For university students, local volunteers taught classes in French (24 hours), Hebrew (30 hours), and advanced English (30 hours). Since June 26th, we have offered English and Spanish classes taught by volunteers from the United States, in cooperation with the Holy Land Trust. Both secondary school and university students have participated in these workshops.
2. Computer courses. We work with local instructors to develop students' computer skills. We offered workshops in SPSS in February and June, with 12 participants in each class. A local volunteer also conducted a 30-hour course in Excel beginning in March, with another 12 participants.
3. Art gallery. Adnan Zubaidi, an accomplished local artist, has agreed to display many of his works in our office gallery. He also taught a workshop in painting to 10 students.
4. Commemoration. On May 16, 2005, we held a commemoration event for the anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and Bethlehem university students. More than 120 students attended the event.
5. Book Exhibition. Beginning June 11th, we held a 10-day Book Exhibition, with support from the Ministry of Culture. Publishers donated over 3,000 books, and more than 250 students and organizations visited the exhibition.
6. Drama. We established a small theater group of 15 students from several universities. The students worked with Mohamad Awwad, a volunteer director, and took lessons in Feineq Theater. We are in the process of a developing a theater project dealing with the issues facing students and Palestinian civil society.