ABU DHABI // A scholarship programme spearheaded by the Palestinian Embassy will see 156 students starting the new academic year at universities and colleges throughout the UAE. Securing a place at university can be challenging for students and place financial burdens on their families at the best of times. But for some Palestinians living in the UAE, there is extra pressure to land a place at a local university.
Many are unable to return to the Palestinian Territories to continue their education, said Mohannad Aklouk, the embassy's first secretary. "We found that some students were having difficulty continuing their studies, which is why we started to find ways to help them," Mr Aklouk said. "Not all of the students here can go back to study in Palestine. Gaza is under siege and also some families from the West Bank can't send their children back because they are afraid of the bad situation there as well."
Many others are restricted by Israel from travelling into the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem because they do not possess the correct identification, he added. The embassy launched the scholarship campaign last year to give young Palestinians a chance to continue their higher education here, especially those with financial difficulties. The committee in charge of the scheme received 433 applications from the Palestinian community this year, which is estimated at 200,000. The seven committee members weighed the students' academic records and financial situations to whittle the number down to 156.
When the committee appealed to universities to take part in the scheme, several offered scholarships for outstanding students. "We tried to be as transparent as possible," said Mr Aklouk. "We were overwhelmed by the number of students coming to fill the applications, but we had very limited scholarships to give out." Priority was given to female students, but about an equal number of male and female students were awarded the scholarships.
"Male students can go outside of the UAE to study in places like Russia and Pakistan, where scholarships are also offered for Palestinian students," he said. "Usually girls do not agree to go out of the UAE, away from their families." The universities taking part in the scheme include UAE University in Al Ain, Al Ain University of Science and Technology, Al Khawarizmi International College, the American College Dubai, the Canadian University Dubai, the Emirates Institute of Banking and Financial Studies, and Al Ghurair University.
The Ministry of Presidential Affairs also awarded four scholarships to Palestinian students who achieved 99 per cent and above in their final year of school. @email:firstname.lastname@example.org