5 October 2012
The Gaza Strip is a difficult place to get an education. Amid a backdrop of violence, unemployment, and extreme poverty resulting from the ongoing Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave, the quality of children’s education in Gaza has declined in recent years.
Years of underfunding have also left the education system overstretched, with 94 per cent of schools operating on double shifts: hosting one “school” of students in the morning and one in the afternoon. Many students in UNRWA’s schools live below the poverty line.
But two teachers at UNRWA’s Gaza schools are setting an example for educators around the world.
Refugee, mother-of-three, teacher: Salam’s story
Salam al-Ramli’s story is similar to that of many from her generation. Her husband passed away during the first intifada, leaving this 47-year old refugee and mother-of-three faced with bring up the children alone.
With support from her family and UNRWA, Salam graduated from university and got a job as a teacher in the local UNRWA school.
With a regular salary, she was able to support her three children alone – eventually putting them all through university.
100 per cent success
At the UNRWA school in Gaza where Salam works, her dedication and sensitivity, as well as her use of modern teaching methods, brings praise from students and staff alike.
“Since Salam joined our school, 100 per cent of her students have successfully passed” says Radia al-Shorafa, the school principal, adding that Salam recently won a school award for her dedication. The school has since built up a reputation as one of the best of its kind in Gaza.
“Salam has not only contributed to the high scores we consistently enjoy; she’s improved the school’s reputation for excellence locally.”
Muein overcomes disability to inspire students
Muein Hijazi was nine years old when his life changed forever. During the Arab-Israeli hostilities of June 1967, in which the West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli control, the explosion of an artillery shell near him led to the loss of his arm. With the added cost of caring for the injured Muein, the family’s already-difficult financial situation began to deteriorate rapidly.
Despite his disability, Muein insisted on getting an education and going to university. He joined UNRWA as an elementary school teacher on his graduation in 1980, and soon began to receive plaudits for his dedication to the job.
For the last three years, he has been based at UNRWA’s elementary boys’ school at Beach (Al Shati) camp in northern Gaza, where his class enjoys a typical pass rate of over 90 per cent.
Motivating students and staff alike
Muein uses IT as much as possible in his teaching – quite a challenge in blockaded Gaza, where teaching resources are scarce. School principal Ahmad Lubbad offers praise for his teaching style, saying that the effect on both students and fellow teachers is positive.
“Muein is a very dedicated teacher.
“His classroom is full of activities that allow children to be interactive, and his teaching style motivates other teachers to do their best.
“Not only is Muein dedicated, but he is creative and patient: his students strive to do their best in the classroom.”
Ever the learner himself, Muein is now studying in his spare time for a master’s degree in Educational Management.