Nablus and Gaza, occupied Palestinian territory - August 2010. “You are going to love this,” says teacher Suha Ghazaal to an expectant class of elementary school girls at Abdel Rahim Basic School for Girls.
The lesson she is about to teach them is Arabic grammar – difficult and mostly memorization. But the way she captivates the classroom with a game makes the lesson an easy one.
Students pop a balloon to get at the question inside, which they must answer correctly in order to select another game to play. “I hope it’s easy,” jokes the energetic Ghazaal as one student unfolds her piece of paper.
When the students fall into a slump, the teacher grabs a drum and begins to beat out the rhythms of the club anthem: “How beautiful you are,” the song goes. “We learn every day a new idea.”
This school is one of 300 in the oPt that is implementing the UNICEF-supported ‘Learning
In Gaza, the World Food Programme joined efforts with UNICEF by providing more than 240,000 date bars as school refreshments. “This initiative aims at providing school children with nutritious food,” says Sharon Mous, UNICEF-Gaza Education Specialist.
The remedial education summer programme targets low-performing students in grades two through six, in the West Bank and grades three through six in Gaza, seeking to increase their basic skills in Arabic and mathematics.
“In the regular schools, these students don’t get a chance to participate,” says Wisama Diab, principal of the Abdel Rahim Basic School for Girls where Ghazaal is teaching. “The smart girls get the attention of the teachers. Here, we see their personalities change.”
At Abdel Rahim Basic School for Girls, the result has been a marked improvement in the students’ knowledge. Starting the programme, the average score on a mathematics test given to students was 32 per cent. After the three-week course, students were given the same test and scored an average of 65 per cent. Similarly, the average student score on an Arabic test was 49 per cent before the programme, rising to 73 per cent at the end of the three-week programme.
In Gaza, the programme relies on the dedication of teachers to overcome the challenges of poverty and the aftermath of war.
Afaf Sahan volunteered to teach fifth and sixth graders in Beit Lahia, even though she lives far away from the area. “I’m here for work, but also because I saw the conditions in Beit Lahia,” she says. “Their situation is really bad. You can’t tell the girls to bring a pencil and paper to school. These girls have nothing.”
Twelve-year-old Islam al-Adham remembers well the days of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in early 2009. Her family sought shelter in a United Nations school after their home caught fire from the bombardment.
“Arabic is hard,” she says. She scored a 52 in her Arabic class last year. But in the ‘Learning for Enjoyment’ classes, al-Adham is engaged in fun ways of studying on learning.
“She’s a smart girl,” says Sahan. “These are girls whose voices we never hear in the classroom, but here they are different. They feel free and they are all on the same level