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Bringing innovation to classrooms in oPt

© UNICEF oPt/2009/El Baba
Zahra al-Khudari and Kholood al-Mzeeni try out the tools of the interactive kit.

GAZA, 29 May 2009 - Bright coloured cones, triangles and measuring tools are scattered across the school desks in the sparsely furnished fifth grade classroom of the Mustafa Hafez primary school in Gaza City. The math teacher, Ruba al-Zebdah is pleasantly surprised as she watches her students immersed in the process of measuring and calculating the area of a bright yellow circle.

Today, as part of a wider distribution of educational materials in Gaza, UNICEF delivered interactive Math and Science teaching kits to this conflict-affected school. The teaching kits were locally developed by UNICEF in 2006 as part of an initiative to improve both the quality and content of education in oPt.

“The kits turned the class into an active one in a very untraditional way,” said Ruba al-Zebdah. “I think this kit is a treasure for every math teacher.”

Innovation in a challenging environment
Across the West Bank and Gaza, the lack of teaching facilities and overcrowded classrooms has brought on a direct negative impact on learning achievements; in 2008, only 19.7 per cent of 16,000 sixth-graders in Gaza passed standardized tests in Arabic, math, science and English. In Gaza, the dire situation is further exacerbated by the recent conflict and the two years of virtual blockade of nearly all goods entering the area, including educational materials.

UNICEF designed the Math and Science kits to meet educational needs during emergencies and regular classroom teaching. A total of 8,592 kits have now been distributed to Palestinian Authority run schools in oPt.

The kits have brought new energy to this Gazan classroom. “The practical part of the math class is much better for me than the theoretical one because I get the idea more quickly,” said Dalal Sbeeh, 10, as she momentarily looks up from her calculations.

International recognition
In 2007, the interactive teaching kits were selected as a UNICEF best practice innovation, thereby serving as learning models for other UNICEF country offices. UNICEF has also included the teaching kits in the standard list of UNICEF educational supplies that range from emergencies to regular programming. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education in Lebanon and Syria have now started to utilize the kits in their schools.

Reaching the students and the teachers
To maximise the impact of the teaching kits, UNICEF has trained over 6,000 teachers on their use and created a teacher’s guide and a training manual in Arabic.

“Through the training and the use of the kits the project is working to improve the teaching and learning environment,” says Potung Shao, UNICEF’s head of education in oPt. “We aim to challenge the passive learning environment in the classroom through hands-on activities while motivating both the teachers and the students.”

Through its education programmes across both the West Bank and Gaza, UNICEF continues to enable children to keep learning, despite the conflict, closures and violence. The utilization of the kits has partially filled a gap in education supplies and stimulated children’s enthusiasm for studying science and mathematics.

 

 
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