Cabaero: Meaning of the encampments

Cabaero: Meaning of the encampments

The encampments of students supporting Gaza on university campuses in several countries, although seeming distant from the Philippines, offer valuable lessons for schools and students here.

Universities in the United States, Canada, France, and Japan, among others, have been the sites of encampments, with students setting up tents or makeshift structures to protest the situation in the Gaza Strip. They also draw attention to the humanitarian crisis and violation of the human rights of Palestinians. The United Nations had said the Israeli war on Gaza had pushed 85 percent of the territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, and 60 percent of its infrastructure had been damaged or destroyed.

Some of these student gatherings have resulted in violent confrontations with pro-Israel groups and police dispersals, as the encampments disrupt school calendars nearing the end of the academic year. Several students have been arrested inside campuses.

Although no such encampments have been seen in Philippine universities, rallies have been held, urging governments to take a stand and to pressure international bodies to act on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the perceived human rights violations. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not directly impact Filipino students, some have participated in protests to let their voices be heard and to have a say on events of global significance. These discussions could then lead to broader conversations about activism, social justice, and the role of the youth in the community and society.

What is also evident in these encampments is the capacity of young people to demand accountability of their leaders and to dream of meaningful change in the world.

Discussions among Filipino students about this crisis contribute to their understanding of what is happening outside the country, fostering critical thinking over the ways governments respond to internal or external turmoil. Such awareness then promotes empathy for people of diverse cultures and histories.

While encampments can be educational venues, the potential for violence arises when emotions escalate on any or both sides of the controversy or when police intervene to keep the peace and let campuses return to their school calendars and normalcy. The protests disrupted final examinations and graduation schedules.

Another significant aspect of the encampments is the rise of campus journalism, providing the public with diverse and more contextual viewpoints of what is happening inside universities. They can give voice to students, faculty, and administration members who have their take on Israel or Palestine, and the campus disruption. They can cover discussions or debates within campuses that some in mainstream media may overlook or not find worthy to report.

These campus journalists get first-hand experience in conflict reporting, threats of censorship, and press freedom, enriching their learning beyond the classroom.

The encampments are occurring in other countries, but the Philippines is not exempt from the lessons that can be gleaned from these incidents.

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