For many students, today marked the first day of their course at Imperial. South Kensington campus is buzzing with new arrivals, eager in the excitement of the oppurtunities that lie ahead of them at University. For one student, Zohair Abu-Shabban, a new student of the Electrical Engineering Department, no such start to his degree is visible in the imminent future.
Zohair is a 24-year-old Palestinian student living in the Gaza strip. He won a scholarship to study a masters programme in Electrical Engineering at Imperial from the Hani Qaddumi Foundation, an organisation with the aim of providing intelligent young palestinians with the opportunity to access education to achieve their aspirations. Zohair hopes that through continuing his education at a postgraduate level he will be able to become a University Professor.
Zohair finished top in his year after studying for a bachelors at The Islamic University in Gaza. This is the only university in Gaza that teaches Electrical Engineering and it only does so at an undergraduate level. Zohair is one of nearly 700 students with places to study abroad who are unable to leave Gaza after the borders were closed. For Zohair this is a double disappointment as he lost his full US Government funded Fulbright scholarship to study for a masters at the University of Connecticut and had his US visa cancelled after failing to be able to cross the border to attend the US University.
Israel closed the borders out of Gaza after the 'hostile' Hamas movement took control of the region in June 2007. The United States have been in negotiations with the Israeli Governent since 2007 to try and allow students with scholarships to study in the US to leave the region. So far this has made little progress and students like Zohair Abu-Shabban are waiting with bags packed to find out if they can attend University this year. Pro Rector (Education), Julia Buckingham, has informed Live! that Imperial College are keeping a close eye on the situation but Zohair has not yet been in touch with the College or Registry.
Imperial College Union and ICU Islamic Society are intending to take action over the situation in the near future so watch out for updates.
Pick up your copy of Felix on Friday to read more about the situation, find out about any developments and see how you can help.