Music inspires adolescents in Jenin refugee camp
West Bank, Jenin, June 2009- In the middle of overcrowded Jenin refugee camp stands a UNICEF-supported adolescent friendly learning centre, its worn out façade belying the bustle of activity within. As sounds of beating drums and keyboard melodies waft down from the second floor, a small group of teenagers rush down the staircase, chatting excitedly among themselves.
Many local musicians have left the area and the centre has been unable to hire a full-time music instructor so Aws, Qais and Majd are feeding their hunger for music via the internet at the centre’s IT lab. They’ve now formed their own band, ‘Noujoum Al Layl’ (The Night Stars), and are offering lessons to their peers.
Offering life-skills education and recreation for adolescents
UNICEF-supported adolescent friendly learning centres are working to expand learning, recreational and civic participation opportunities for this particularly vulnerable age group. Each of 73 centres across the West Bank and Gaza is equipped with a computer lab, sports and music equipment, stationary and art supplies and library books. The centres also support adolescent-led campaigns to prevent peers from dropping out of school; to promote reading; and to advocate for ending violence.
“In the two years since the centre has been operational, I’ve seen these young people become less prone to violence, and more able to communicate with each other and to adults,” said Naim Sadi, UNICEF Jenin Field Officer. “They’ve learned critical skills – team work, respect, self-confidence – that will last them a lifetime.”
Music transports us away from here
Today, conflict and occupation affect all aspects of their lives. The more than 600 obstacles to internal Palestinian movement across the West Bank block more than the physical movement of people and goods, the boys say, but stifle creativity and dreams as well. Music, for these boys, is a ticket to a place far away from checkpoints, violence and politics.
When asked about their dreams for the future, they sit in silence. After some thought, they all say that they want to be music stars. “What all of us want, more than anything else, is to be like adolescents everywhere else around the world,” said Aws. “We want to be free to live, to hope, to dream.”