Making a Difference With Remedial Education
By Hanadi Abu-Taqa
WEST BANK, 23 March 2005 - On a warm sunny spring day, we started out our trip early in the morning heading towards a West Bank village called Azzoun Itmeh. The one-hour drive took us past beautiful scenes of colored flowers and green olive trees spread all over the sides of the street.
As we entered Azzoun Itmeh School, we were greeted by the school principal – Jamila. “I am glad you are here with us today, we have not had any visitors for over a month due to restricted access to our village.”
Jamila, who lives in the nearby village added: “Before the gate I needed 10 minutes to reach the school, now it takes me more than one hour to reach the school that is if I am allowed to enter.”
Jamila took us upstairs to meet children in their remedial education classes. We entered Grade Four with almost 20 girls seated behind their desks, deeply concentrating on their Arabic class. As soon as the girls saw us entering, they started chatting in Arabic: “Good morning and welcome to our school”.
They were doing an exercise to solve a puzzle by connecting the right letters horizontally or vertically to obtain a proper name for a bird. All girls were very attentive and were participating joyfully. The Arabic lesson was on the different types of birds.
Inas with big baby blue eyes, while trying to connect the letters alphabetically, with very small pink pencil in her right hand, and a rubber in her left hand, got the word “Babagha” meaning Parrot in Arabic. Inas is a 10-year-old girl living in Azzoun Itmeh and has never had the chance to leave the village.
Says Inas, of her remedial education work: “I love the folder; I have been using a similar one since last year. Whenever we cannot come to school, my mom is able to teach me my lessons by using this folder.”
Asked about her dreams, Inas said: “I love to study because my dream is to become an Arabic teacher so that I can teach all children the proper Arabic language. I also like to play hopscotch with my friends Soundos, Asma and Tahani.”
Said Soundos, a 10 year old red headed girl with big green eyes: “I want to become an ophthalmologist when I grow up because I want to ensure that all children can see well in class.”
A health education team of the Palestinian Ministry of Health that was unable to reach the school for the past year due to closure was on hand this day. “I was very upset last year, because we were not able to come to the school and screen the children’, said team leader Dr. Fathi. “If children are not screened for various diseases, as well as their hearing and vision capacity, they are denied their basic right for good health.”
Jamila, the school principal, is always working hard in maintaining the school up to the latest standards. Various activities are continuously taking place in Azzoun Itmeh School such as remedial education classes, sensitization workshops for parents on how to better cope with their children’s distress, and life skills based education and initiatives towards making the school a child friendly school.
“I want all human rights and mostly children’s rights organizations to come and visit us to see how we continue our path towards educating our children despite the various challenges faced,” said Jamila.
Azzoun Itmeh School caters for almost 400 girls and boys up to Grade 11. It is a co-educational school up to Grade Five and the remaining classes only have girls. The remedial education is one of the many activities supported in the school by UNICEF. It allows 100 school girls and boys of Grades One to Five to continue their education even when the school is closed.
In 2004/2005 academic year, and as a result of the successful Remedial pilot project in Hebron, UNICEF supported the expansion of the project to five of the most affected districts, namely Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Rafah and Tulkarem. This was implemented through a catch-up education programme that provides compensatory education for children who have not been able to participate in continuous education due to mobility restrictions and curfews.
The programme covered 150,000 children whose schooling had been interrupted by closures and curfews, and ensured that these students maintained high educational standards. This project was supported by a contribution of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The support was instrumental in ensuring that these children continue to learn despite closures and restricted mobility.
Hanadi Abu-Taqa is the Zonal Officer for UNICEF oPt in Tulkarem