Public Debate Part II: The Role of Student Movements in Raising Students' Political Awareness

With the participation of number of active students in Palestinian universities, The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development - REFORM conducted several dialogue sessions in Nablus and Hebron. These sessions aimed to highlight the significant role of student movements in raising students' political awareness, as well as to identify prospects for youth political participation due to the decline of their active engagement in the democratic process within the universities. The sessions also shed light on the cause and effect relationship between the lack of student political participation and their engagement in public life, such as in community institutions and active political parties.

A number of researchers participated in these sessions, as well as representatives of Student Union councils at An-Najah National University, Hebron University, Polytechnic University, Andaleeb College and Al-Quds Open University branches in Hebron and Nablus.

At the beginning of the session, the attendees discussed the influencing factors for the lack of political participation of youth, such as prevailing social fault-lines (gender, financial status, political affiliation, educational level, etc.), in which there is enhanced youth political participation when the educational level increases and the poverty rate decreases.

The attendees also touched on the role of the media in transferring news and information regarding the contribution of the democratic movement in raising the awareness of youth and enhancing their participation in political life. Moreover, the attendees also discussed how engaging youth within political life develops their personal capacities, promotes their active citizenship and enhances their access to public services and decision-making roles.

In addition, the participants pointed out several obstacles that student movements face within the universities, most notably: the disruption of the democratic process at the community level, the limited participation of students in public life (outside activities held on campus), the financial hardships that force students to work to secure their educational path, and the lack of active student bodies and unions that work towards achieving their goals, disregarding political influence.

At the end of the sessions, the participants recommended to revive the democratic movement regularly within the legislative bodies, Unions, political parties and governmental bodies. Participants also called for establishing a more steady democratic process within the universities, activating influential stakeholders as well as raising the awareness of university students on the importance of political participation.

This activity is part of The “Rooftop Debate – Drivers of Political Change” project aims to create a network of powerful social and political young leaders and equip them with supporting tools that enable them to create social change by directing them to find solutions to their problems and concerns, which promotes social cohesion, ensures pluralism and strengthens civil peace within society. The project also seeks to provide safe and interactive platforms that connect young activists with representatives of Government bodies and civil society organizations, in order to capacitate youth to voice out their concerns and engage in shaping public policies that are more responsive to their social and political needs.

This project is implemented in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation.