Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children

by Rebuilding Alliance
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Love, Learning, and Support for Gaza's Children
Science students creating an electric circuit
Science students creating an electric circuit

As I write this report, Gaza continues to go through some challenging times—the highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aftermath of the May 2021 bombings, and the debilitating effects of the siege on the economy. Three teachers in Gaza continue to teach with limited resources but much dedication and hard work. Knowing that these teachers are not immune to these challenges, I asked the teachers what motivates them to keep going, to keep teaching?

Maha Eissa, the English teacher, responded “It is very important to give free lessons to the children especially under the current circumstances.” The Women Programs Center - Rafah, where English and Science classes are held, selects children based on their financial condition who cannot afford to pay for extra after-school programs. Maha adds that generally, children lag behind in English as compared to other subjects. The parents don’t know English and can’t help their children; therefore, these classes are absolutely necessary so the children will keep up.

“I want the children to love science,” says Ruwaida Amer, the Science teacher, as she explains her teaching philosophy. The way science is taught in schools in Palestine is all about memorizing the lesson without actually understanding the core concepts. “I wanted the children to come out of the boring rut followed at schools. I make science fun by designing creative, hands-on activities around each lesson.”

Art teacher and famous artist, Laila Kassab believes that “art is the best psychological therapy for children.” Through art, she has helped some children to talk and express their feelings and overcome isolation. Laila made Pinwheels for Peace in her class and encouraged the children to discuss their ideas of peace and what happened to them during the war, through drawing, colors, and writing. Please watch her video, as it is inspiring teachers and parents throughout Palestine to make Pinwheels for Peace too.

It is a true delight when we receive positive feedback from parents of the children—an affirmation that we are on track. “I believe students’ love for the subject is the biggest success,” says Ruwaida. "The children in science class are taking great interest and enjoy studying science and parents have duly noticed this. Student Sahar’s mother said that her daughter loves science more than any other subject!"

Parents of English students have thanked the teacher for the development and marked improvement in the English language skills of their children. The mother of student Ahmed says, “Earlier, I faced a lot of problems with my son’s English. I am pleased that he has become excellent in the language after taking your English lessons.” Art students’ parents also conveyed their messages of gratitude to Laila after seeing an improvement in their children's morale.

Schools opened up in Gaza in mid-August after remaining closed for nearly a year except for brief periods. I am happy to write that these classes are meeting the goal we set out with--that is, providing free education to deserving children, in safety.  All our teachers are teaching in open courtyards, with great ventilation, socially distanced and wearing masks. Had it not been for these classes, these children would not have coped with their studies in school.

While the teachers deserve appreciation for their hard work, I also want to thank you for your contribution to this project. We wouldn't have been able to do this work without you. We sincerely hope you continue to support these children's education. 

P.S.  If you and your coworkers have a volunteer program at work, Visit.org has commissioned Artist Laila to teach how to make Pinwheels for Peace. Please find the details in the link below.

Art class in the garden
Art class in the garden
Renewable Energy Model by science students
Renewable Energy Model by science students
English class
English class
Art student holding her Pinwheel for Peace
Art student holding her Pinwheel for Peace
A lesson on DNA in Science class
A lesson on DNA in Science class
Learning Prepositions
Learning Prepositions
Working on a Science project
Working on a Science project
How to make Pinwheels for Peace with Artist Laila
How to make Pinwheels for Peace with Artist Laila

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I am honored to be leading this project as an Analyst, Strategist and Web Developer at Rebuilding Alliance. My experience is in research, strategic peacebuilding and education. Although I'm writing from a distance, my goal is to give you an insight into how we are able to carry on with the teaching project despite the challenges in Gaza. 

Art, Science and English classes were disrupted during May 2021 due to the missile strikes in the Gaza Strip. Describing the situation, Laila Kassab, the Art teacher said, "We are all in danger and may die at any moment." The Science teacher, Ruwaida Amer, narrated that the children believed that it was the end of the world. There was fear and panic everywhere. During the hostilities, I checked on the three teachers and did my best to support the staff by calling to see how they were doing. Thankfully, all three teachers, Rebuilding Alliance's staff, and the children remained safe.

After the attacks, we assessed the situation to decide when it was safe to resume the classes. We now faced a twin challenge of COVID and Conflict in Gaza. Although the hostilities were over, the trauma is still there. The children will need emotional support for a long time to come. Teachers can play an important role in this. We decided that the focus would remain on providing emotional support through activities that would let them vent and express themselves.

Teachers designed many fun activities for the children--jumping on a trampoline, dancing to songs, playing ball, blowing up balloons, drawing, painting, and making pinwheels while expressing their feelings, hopes, and fears.

Before the hostilities, the teachers had accomplished a lot since we launched this project this past March. The students are fortunate to have three dedicated teachers teaching Art, English, and Science. These teachers are supported by our partner NGO, The Women Programs Center - Rafah, who provides them with mentoring and stationery--paper, printed worksheets, art materials, scissors, glue, cardboards etc, and masks and sanitisers.

We urged the teachers to adopt best safety practices by holding classes outdoors with sitting arrangements at a safe distance, ensuring that children wear masks and use sanitisers, and also educating them about the pandemic and the importance of personal hygiene and social distancing.

The classes are free. Most children are from poor families who cannot afford specialized classes otherwise. Raghda, a student of English says, “My dad has died and I could not pay for English lessons, but these lessons give me the chance to learn English.”

The Art teacher happens to be a world-renowned Palestinian artist. Kassab has set up tables and chairs in her garden to teach children in groups, 24 children in total. Children create the most incredible things using simple stuff like eggshells, used cans, and pumpkin seeds. Laila says through arts she wants “to alleviate the sufferings and fears of the children.”

Maha Issa, the English teacher, was teaching remotely via Whatsapp and Facebook, but now has come back to teaching in-person outdoors at the Women Programs Center. Driven by her desire to teach as many children as possible, around 100 students are taking English lessons from her. She starts by explaining concepts, such as the alphabet, numbers, basic grammar, on the board and makes use of cards and drawings to make the learning process easier. She has made herself available by phone to help the students even when she is not teaching. Children are provided with printed worksheets for the homework.

The Science teacher, Amer, teaches 45 children in small groups in the courtyard area at the Women Programs Center. The layout supports a safe teaching environment for the children. She encourages creative thinking among her students. For instance, on Agriculture Day, children got to plant seeds at the Center. They also learned about body organs and the solar system. Her lessons generate a lot of interest in each subject. Sometimes children take materials back home to do experiments.

Thank you for stepping forward to shape a safe and beautiful future for these children, almost against the odds. Your support is deeply appreciated. 

Socially-distanced art in Laila Kassab's yard
Socially-distanced art in Laila Kassab's yard
Planting activity for science class
Planting activity for science class
Science teacher, Ruwaida Amer, with her students
Science teacher, Ruwaida Amer, with her students
English teacher, Maha Issa, in her virtual class
English teacher, Maha Issa, in her virtual class
A child holding a pinwheel
A child holding a pinwheel
writing on a pinwheel
writing on a pinwheel
Emotional support activity in English Class
Emotional support activity in English Class
Emotional Support activity in English Class
Emotional Support activity in English Class
Emotional support activity in science class
Emotional support activity in science class
Making a skin layer model in science class
Making a skin layer model in science class

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Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Redwood City, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @RebuildAll
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Redwood City, CA United States
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