“Necessity is the mother of invention,” a proverb that a Palestinian student applied to help his colleagues complete their university education despite financial hurdles.
Jihad Shojaeha had struggled to pay his university tuition fees amid the tough economic situation in Palestine. Once he graduated, he was determined to turn his struggle into an inspiration and help other students complete their university education.
In 2007, he launched his “From Student to Student” initiative to provide scholarships and financial aid to outstanding students who cannot afford education. In return, beneficiaries are required to tutor at least four underprivileged school students for a set number of hours a week.
Receiving widespread support and success, the initiative has grown into a “Palestinian Initiative For Supporting Students (ESNAD),” a comprehensive educational initiative that oversees different programs aimed at combating poverty through learning. In 2013, the non-profit initiative was officially registered under the Palestinian Authority.
“When students succeed, the entire society succeeds regardless of the circumstances,” said Shojaeha, the Ramallah-based founder and executive direction of ESNAD. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology and a master's degree in Social Statistics and Quantitative Research from Birzeit University in the West Bank.
Shojaeha noted that the initiative’s scholarships started with individual donations before expanding to donors of private small and medium-sized companies.
The ESNAD Fund for Scholarships has so far helped over 2,400 students across universities in Palestine.
Shojaeha added that the initiative focuses on female university students who continue to prove to be the most dedicated volunteers in teaching larger number of school students and scoring high grades through their work.
“ESNAD does not only aim to spread education, but also spread the culture of volunteerism widely among the youth and make it more desirable,” Shojaeha said.
He added that ESNAD has been developing students’ personalities by teaching them to take responsibility and be confident of their ability to make a positive change in society.
The initiative is expanding to include different youth programs serving the same goal: instilling hope and reflecting the values of the Palestinian society, where the illiteracy rate is among the lowest in the world, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Seeking to empower youth through different programs that encourage youth participation in the community, ESNAD oversees the “Life Skills for the Labor Market” program designed to increase employment opportunities for the Palestinian youth in local, regional and international job markets through reinforcing their skills.
It also helps female high school students to choose suitable university majors to expand future workplace opportunities, while its “Youth for Healthy Lifestyle” program promotes sports and health awareness among university students.
“Education is the first step towards freedom,” Shojaeha said.