When ANERA launched its early childhood development program (ECD) in the West Bank in 2010 there were hundreds of private facilities but only two run by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
ANERA helped train teachers at the two schools, located in Bethlehem and Nablus, and in two dilapidated private schools in refugee camps in the same areas. ANERA also undertook renovations of the schools and the playgrounds and provided appropriate learning materials and classroom furnishings.
Four years later, the world of ECD has dramatically changed: the Ministry of Education is launching a one-year preparatory program for children aged 4½ – 5½, which should begin with the 2014-2015 school terms at eight government schools in Hebron, Jericho and Jenin. This is the first-of-its-kind initiative in Palestine.
“The eight preschools, for now, will offer a one-year kindergarten program for the older preschoolers,” explains Najah Harb, supervisor of Southern Hebron Preschool. “However, we expect this program will soon-enough grow to cover both kindergarten age groups.”
Preschools to be Located Inside Regular Schools
And, in a creative strategy, the preschools will be established inside already-existing schools. Adequate spaces inside the schools will be turned into safe, functional preschools. Najah explains: “By establishing kindergartens at existing schools, the PA is gradually attempting to make preschool education obligatory because we believe it is our children’s right. Once this initiative proves to be successful, it will be applied at all schools across the country.”
The new preschools will be free of charge and serve remote marginalized towns and villages that have no childcare facilities. ANERA will renovate two of the eight preschools in Anab Al-Kabir and Beit Mirsim, thanks to a generous $70,000 donation from Kuwait.
Najah says the children in the new facilities are the first in their communities to attend a preschool. “The young children in Anab and Beit Mirsim are quite lucky to have ANERA at their side,” Najah says with a smile.
The two teachers assigned to run the preschools recently completed ANERA’s one-year teacher training course conducted by ANERA’s ECD coordinator and trainer Sulaima Abu El-Haj. The training covered a variety of fundamental topics in early childhood and teaching that included practice in the classroom, with supervision and follow-up.
“It’s encouraging to see our organization build upon its previous success,” ANERA’s Sulaima Abu El-Haj proudly adds. “One project complements another. There is a beautiful harmony there.”
ANERA also built a new exterior wall, a playground, water fountain, and sanitary facility to make the school a healthier, safer place to learn.
Renovations at Beit Mirsim preschool are already underway and will soon begin in Anab Al-Kabir. These two isolated villages have suffered from poverty and inadequate health and education infrastructures.