In Autumn 2017, students across 15 schools in Syria, Gaza, Belgium, UK and Norway connected through the virtual exchange project My Voice-My School. Over five months, Palestine refugee students in UNRWA schools worked with their peers in Europe to explore the importance and impact of education and develop their education advocacy projects.
Partner classes met online three times to get to know each other and share ideas. Discussions were filmed and photographed to bring these young voices to the attention of a wider audience via the press and social media. International media coverage amplified students’ voices who appeared on Thomson Reuters News, Arab News, Norway’s TV2, Belgium’s Ketnet and VRT News.
All classes involved in the project worked in groups to conduct surveys on the chosen aspects of quality education and present their ideas to their teachers, school leadership or local authorities. Students used diverse and creative tools for their advocacy campaigns, from self-made clips and writing petitions to making posters and performing plays composed by them.
Students in UNRWA schools redecorated parts of the school buildings, planted trees in the courtyard and organised campaigns to promote healthy food, a cleaner environment and sport activities. They also advocated for long-term solutions that involve large-scale projects like modernising schools, building a school canteen and a health centre, introducing vocational training and equipping schools with new technologies.
With half of their life growing up in a devastating war, students in Syria see education as the only means to protect his generation from becoming a lost one. Similarly, Gaza students living under a decade-long blockade, they made a plea to world leaders to support their future. They supported the #DignityIsPriceless campaign, a global initiative by UNRWA to raise funding after the drastic reductions of American pledged funds.
Students in Europe focused on convincing their teachers to add more flexibility to their schedule, so they could learn independently topics they are interested in (Flanders, Belgium), create career courses (Norway), raise funds for charities supporting access to education for the most disadvantaged and having free sanitary products for girls in schools (UK). They also wanted to have a stronger voice in their education and advocated for evaluating their teachers (Belgium) and making the school a welcoming environment by encouraging students who felt bullied to openly discuss their problems with the teachers they felt most comfortable with (Flanders).