“It’s not easy living here. You never know what will happen tomorrow,” says N. Abu Dahuk, a community play worker at the Jahalin School in the Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar, in the West Bank. The school is under imminent threat of demolition.
Despite uncertainty over the future of their school, the Jahilin Bedouin community held a series of fun activities there this summer with the support of UN agencies, national and international NGOs. N. Abu Dahuk, an assistant at the school, underwent training to put on fun summer activities. “Children need routine in times like this, and the summer camp has helped the children to have fun and keep learning so they are busy and happy,” she says.
“We all benefited from the activities. We hope we can keep our school, so we can do the activities again next summer.”
Khan al Ahmar is located east of Jerusalem, near the large Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. Like many herding communities living in Area C, the Israeli-controlled area that comprises over 60 per cent of the West Bank, the community there faces threats of demolition and displacement, as well as harassment from Israeli settlers, restricted movement and collapsing livelihoods.
Israel’s closure regime has left these marginalised communities increasingly dependent on humanitarian assistance.
In 2009 the Khan al Ahmar Bedouin communities, facing mounting levels of debt and increasingly unable to meet transport costs, had to cancel the private bus that transported their children to UNRWA schools in Jericho.
After some young children were killed by fast-moving traffic as they waited on the highway for the public bus, the communities decided to withdraw the primary school age children from school.
With the support of Vento di Terra, an Italian NGO, residents built a local school out of recycled rubber tyres.
In February this year, after a court challenge on the grounds the structure lacked a building permit, the Israeli High Court ruled that the school could be demolished in June, at the end of the school year.
The summer camp, held between mid-July and the end of August, helped make use of the building outside the school year. The camp established the school as a community centre where children, women and men gathered to play, to learn and to laugh.
The itinerary included children’s play activities and a football match between community members and UNRWA staff.
Ali, 9, said: “My favorite bits were the football and throwing the clay. That was funny, we were all laughing a lot.”
School representative Abu Raid Arare said: “The summer activities made us feel supported by the humanitarian community and that we are not a forgotten story. We welcomed the summer programme, and it was very good to see my children coming home with things they had made every day and telling us about all the activities.”
The summer camp provided important psychological support to children and adults facing the stress of demolitions and settler harassment.
The NGOs installed a safe-play area and provided educational materials, including toys, sports gear, story books and ‘back to school’ supplies for children entering the new school year.
UNESCO trained three local women to run literacy activities with the children, while UNRWA health staff provided first aid and health sessions for women and hygiene classes with the children.
UNRWA will continue to provide mobile health services, cash-for-work projects and food distributions, and its mental health staff plan to run further training sessions later in the year in the community.
The summer camp brought together UNRWA, UNESCO, Save the Children, Right to Play, UNICEF and YMCA. UNRWA’s protection project is supported by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO).
Read more about the rubber tyre school
More about UNRWA’s protection work (PDF)