Aqarbaniyeh, West Bank
Pupils living in a remote and marginal area of the Jordan Valley have come up with an ingenious solution to the lack of pleasant outdoor space to spend their free time, by transforming the local garbage dump into a school garden.
The 900 students at the co-ed school in Aqarbiniyeh in the West Bank came up with the idea when they took part in a citizenship project through UNRWA with the Ibda’ (Start) Centre, based in Bethlehem.
The project helps children acquire skills and teaches them to apply the principles of partnership with the local community, democracy, responsibility and active citizenship.
The schoolchildren started by mapping their area to identify issues they face – including the use of fertilisers, the health clinic, water pollution and the school garden. After a vote to choose which issue they wanted to tackle, the students set to work.
The garbage dump was an ideal environment for poisonous plants and wildlife such as snakes, but after six months’ work, children were able to play outside in the garden.
They received support for the project from members of the village council, the Ministry of Agriculture and the governor of Nablus, as well as UNRWA’s sanitation and environment department. The garden was officially launched in June, in the presence of local and UNRWA officials.
The local community, students and teachers all worked together in an atmosphere of openness as emphasised by UNRWA.
Students realised that with determination and perseverance, everything is possible, even though they live in a difficult environment, where basic needs are not met.
One ninth-grader said on launch day: “We will continue to look for new issues and find solutions. Each one of us can make a difference.”