Teachers like Reem Nashef help make the Primary School at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam a one-of-a-kind institution. A 14-year resident of the Village, Reem’s own children graduated from the Primary School. And while she works full-time at the school — she’s responsible for the 6th-grade class, and she’s also the school’s science and environment teacher — Reem is working toward her own master’s degree in education. She speaks Hebrew, Arabic, German, French, and English.
Reem is especially proud of her current crop of sixth graders, whom she also taught last year. She reports that, this year, they are more focused, more aware of what they want, and their ideas and opinions about life have crystallized.
One of the ways this happens at the NSWAS Primary School is through projects like the “history line,” in which students examine, first, what was happening personally in their lives at various periods. Then they look at what was happening in their community, region, and the world at those same times. The project demands a high level of discipline as these young people independently research and investigate these parallel histories.
There are 12 Jewish and 9 Arab children in the class. Reem Nashef describes them as strong minded and individualistic. It’s because of accomplished and ambitious role models like Reem that this year’s 6th graders will continue to thrive as they become young adults.
As of the 2013-14 school year, the Primary School at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has full recognition from the Israeli Ministry of Education as an independent, public school.
This is a status the school staff and supporters have long pursued, and it entitles the Primary School to funding from the Ministry.
But despite this good news, there is still a tremendous and urgent need for support, in part because of the school’s unique structure: the Primary School is committed to a bilingual, bi-national curriculum — one of the school’s founding principles — but this requires two teachers in every classroom, one Arabic speaker and one Hebrew speaker. This makes the school unique in its region but, again, requires a level of funding beyond that offered by the Ministry of Education.
In the meantime, working with the Ministry of Education, the school began last year the process of becoming fully modernized. The school received 20 computer work stations for children, six workstations for teachers, and each teacher received a computer. Equipment was installed in each of the classrooms and teachers began an ongoing training program in the integration of technology into the classroom.
The Primary School at Never Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, which first opened its doors in September 1984 as the first binational bilingual school in Israel, has just entered its 30th year. On the first day of school, children from many villages arrived by school bus and were greeted with a welcome ceremony led by Principal Anwar Daoud and attended by the enthusiastic (and worried) parents of the first graders, a representative from the Regional Council and the chairperson of the village association.
The first day of school also marked a new chapter for the Primary School as it transitions into a partnership with the Ministry of Education. It has been both an exciting and challenging step for the school--while it is becoming a fully recognized school under the Ministry, it must continue to independently support and sustain its bilingual and binational approach, its innovative curriculum and the special projects that prepare the students to grow into bridge-builders and problem-solvers.
Today, however, on this first day of their first year at the school, everyone’s focus was the arrival of the first graders! Sixth graders welcomed the first graders, escorting them to their places with the rest of the school. As each first grader introduced him/herself, each was greeted with applause from the whole school, and received a personal wish/blessing from a sixth grader:
"May you make many friends.”“May all your courses be interesting”“May you always have your homework ready on time."
Send a first grader your own wish along with your donation to the Primary School at NSWAS. Let them know their future matters to you!
This year, the students at the Primary School have been engaging in programming to learn how to care not only for each other but also the world around them. The students have been learning to nurture their environment, planting trees along the road leading up to the village in honor of Tu B’Shevat and Eid i-Shajara, and spending an activity day in the forest before spring break. Being green means, “making the effort so that the world will be cleaner for the people and the animals that live here,” explained Rayna, a sixth grader.
In April, the Primary School hosted an event centered on the Green Network, to which nine surrounding schools were invited. The Green Network program aims to educate children of all religions and races on the importance of the environment, and to monitor and support schools in initiating and developing environmental programs to reduce the ecological footprint of individuals and the surrounding community. The Green Network has operated with over 40 schools and 30 kindergartens in all sectors of the population in Israel; with Jews and Arabs, religious and secular; from the Galilee to Negev. At the program children were taught about the benefits of recycling, reusing, and the importance of being green. The Primary School has taken part in this program for the last three years! This year they had the honor of hosting under a new canopy over the turf play area.
The Primary School at NSWAS is so committed to recycling that it has a recycled art room, made from one of the first two wood huts that the people lived in when they settled the village. Everything inside and out is made from recycled materials and the kids work building art projects made of 100% recycled material. This could be just the beginning. The school staff would also like to develop a system to capture rainwater for irrigation, to construct solar electric panels on the roof, and even build a new kindergarten building in adobe style with recycled materials. Over the next few years there are plans to build a “Greenhouse Science Center” which will also incorporate the school’s current Zoo Lab animal center with a recycling center and plant nursery, and eventually be used as an education center for other schools in the region. The center will combine ecology with other areas of learning to create a hands-on experience for many more children in the region.
Tomer’s grandmother was last seen at the Primary School 15 years ago. “It was amazing, when my daughter went to school at Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam, there were a few wooden cabins that were classrooms and today it is a beautiful campus with a gym, nursery school and playgrounds”.
“I was born on Kibbutz Be’eri but grew up in many different places in Israel. Twenty years ago when my daughter was starting school, I wanted her to learn at NSWAS. I believed then, as I do now that if all the towns and villages in Israel were like NSWAS, and all the schools had Arabs and Jews, the conflict in the country wouldn’t exist.”
“It was important for me that (my grandson) Tomer go to school at NSWAS. A place like NSWAS which is open to thinking differently and has such deep humanistic roots will naturally produce a more humanistic education and a healthy environment. When I went to the school last month, it was so warm and welcoming to me and the students. I’m very happy Tomer learns there. He comes home from school and reads and sings to me in Arabic and shows me all his work; for him, being together with Jews and Arab in natural.
Next year, Tomer’s brother will start the first grade and we are waiting anxiously to hear if he will get into the school.”
Grandma Tirza Yalon Kolton lives in Tel Aviv and a ceramicist and artist.
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