Jihad Mohammad Abdallah Battu

Jihad Battu: 85-year-old Palestinian university graduate

Jihad Mohammad Abdallah Battu

Jihad Mohammad Abdallah Battu

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If there's one thing Jihad Mohammad Abdallah Battu is known for, it's her unwavering tenacity.


The 85-year-old Palestinian from al-Mujaydil received a bachelor's degree from Kafr Bara's institution of Islamic studies this week.

Jihad's tale, as the oldest student in the college's history, drew tremendous attention on social media, with scores of people reposting her photo.


Her illustrious life, on the other hand, did not begin with ease. Jihad, together with her mother and siblings, were forced out of their town of al-Mujadil when the Nakba, or forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes, began in 1948.

The Battu family was compelled to relocate to Nazareth, which was six kilometers away.

The journey has its share of peril. At one point, the family miraculously spared death when a cave in which they had taken refuge was bombed.


The family’s forced evictions also took a toll on the familial structure. Jihad’s father refused to leave his home, preferring victory in al-Mujadil or death on its land. 

From that point on, Jihad’s education was unstable. The school doors in Nazareth were closed for two years following the Nakba.

Finally, in the third year, Jihad was able to return to school and even skip fourth grade due to her advanced capabilities. 


This did not last long. At this point, her mother’s health quickly deteriorated, leaving Jihad with no choice but to stay at home, taking care of the housework, and raising her younger siblings.  

Speaking to Middle East Eye, she said that leaving education “felt horrible".


“I do not have any hard feelings about the circumstances which prevented me from graduating in my youth as I know that God does not test a person more than they can handle. I know that God granted me with a very strong memory so I can achieve whatever I want,” she told us. 


At the age of 14, Jihad’s perseverance was in full force. She decided to continue education by secretly enrolling in advanced classes in a range of subjects. 

But again this was short-lived. When her mother found out, she decided the only solution was for Jihad to get married. At this point, she was seventeen years old. 

Luckily, Jihad’s husband was supportive and didn’t mind her pursuing education. Because of this, she was able to attend Quran and Islamic studies lessons at her local mosque.


Then finally she decided to enter university at the age of 85 to earn a degree in Islamic Studies, graduating on 25 September.


Jihad’s immediate family was nothing but supportive of her decision. 

“My husband never disapproved and my children were among my strongest encouragers,” she told MEE.

“I instilled in my children the love of learning up until they graduated and were able to build successful careers.”


In turn, Jihad’s children repaid the favour, motivating their mother to finally pursue her lifelong dream.

“They met me with appreciation and gratitude, accompanying me on my journey and providing me with all the support I needed until I graduated,” she says.

With all the buzz online regarding Jihad and her inspiring story, we wondered what her reaction was to it all. 

She told MEE that she was never expecting such a response. In fact, she had previously held a negative view of social media.


“However, what happened to me left me with a positive impression that there are many people around the world who believe in the abilities of the elderly and their aspirations and successes are not negated.”


According to Jihad, knowing that you don’t get a second chance in life spurred her on to go to university.

Confident in her mental capabilities and her determination to achieve anything she set her mind to, she never once looked back.


For those in similar circumstances to those faced by Jihad in her youth, she reminds them that “sadness and regret for the past do not change the future.

"As long as a person can breathe, it is not too late for them to achieve their dream. And remember, your dreams are not handed to you on a silver platter. You have to strive and do your best to succeed.”