Framing Critical Issues in Nablus
Getting kids to appreciate civic engagement in any part of the world is difficult, but getting them to appreciate and confront critical issues in Nablus is especially challenging given the environment in which they grow up. After successive decades of conflict and political strife, the status quo in Nablus has been dim, but at this point, it is accepted. Despite this, TYO challenges students to look beyond their community’s trials and see the potential for positive change. This has been difficult in light of the Palestinian context. For example, one of my students comes from a home in which nine people share a single bathroom, yet this week she told me that she didn’t think housing conditions in her neighborhood were cramped because, “it’s not as bad as the refugee camps.”
For the last several weeks in Triple Exposure, I have been asking my photography students to imagine ways that that Nablus could change for the better. Students have been presented with several Nabulsi issues great and small, including overcrowding as well as smoking, child labor, the environment, and school conditions. After using their cameras to document these problems, students created posters to spread awareness about these subjects in their community. This student-led campaign is meant to empower Nablus’ youth to appreciate and understand their ability to spark productive dialogue within their neighborhood.
For a while, this project looked extremely promising. In addition to taking creative and, in many cases, hilarious pictures that captured the crux of the topics at hand, my amateur activists were inspired and enthusiastic about sharing their work with Khallet. As we hung up our posters, the mood was optimistic and energetic. Unfortunately, neighborhood bullies stymied our efforts, and many of the posters did not survive the afternoon. Nevertheless, my students seemed content with the work that they had accomplished, and seeing them so engaged with the project, despite the setback, is promising for the future of Nablus. Students said that if even one person had the opportunity to see their work, it was worth it. The ability to overcome upsets like this is just the kind of empowerment that TYO works to proliferate among Palestinians in Nablus. To see my students look past the challenges they faced this week has been one of the most rewarding signs that my work here has had a positive impact on my students.
Zak is a Fall 2013 intern at TYO in Nablus.