7 October 2013
As a child, Amal Hasanein was always at the top of her class; at An-Najah National University, where she studied mathematics, she graduated with honours. Now, she is the first female principal of a boys’ school in the West Bank. But this isn’t a resting place for her. She’s never been interested in achievement for its own sake: From the beginning, her guiding principle has been to create opportunities for those around her.
Her own journey has shown her how important those can be. After a brief time overseas, Amal returned to the West Bank and found a job teaching math at the UNRWA school in Qalqiliya that she herself had attended. As she worked alongside her own former teachers, Amal’s drive and initiative were soon noticed. In 2000, she became principal of a girls’ school in Fara’a. When she learned, soon after, that the Qalqiliya Basic Boys’ School needed a principal, she offered herself for the opportunity.
Her appointment was unprecedented within the Agency.“I didn’t sleep one single minute the night before I started,” Amal said. “I was terrified to step inside an all-boys school full of male teachers.” Their first meeting quickly restored her confidence. “They were all very respectful and immediately expressed their support,” she said. She then built strong relationships between her teaching staff and the families of their students, while utilizing her networks with local organizations to improve the school and its services.
Her efforts paid off: Soon, hers became the most sought-after boys’ school in Qalqilya, and local parents began to transfer their children from government schools. “It took a lot of work, but my team and I achieved our goal,” Amal said. “One of the teachers told me at the time that I was overworking the staff, but that they were happy to do so! That has been the best testimonial.”
Amal’s efforts to improve her school and her community continue. She is particularly proud of 64-year-old Sharifah Mohammad Ahmad Ali Mansour, a school attendant whose eagerness to learn Amal admired. She invited Sharifah to enrol alongside the students, and the results have been remarkable for everyone. (Read more about Sharifah’s story here.)
“I have been truly lucky,” Amal says. “I was always surrounded by people who believed in me, so I have tried to do the same for others.” That may be the single most important task for any teacher or principal, and Amal does it every single day.
UNRWA operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East, providing more than half a million Palestine refugee children with free-of-charge basic education. The US government is committed to the relief of Palestine refugees and is the largest bilateral General Fund donor.