Observations from Our Visit to Anera Educational Programs
On December 5, 2022, we had the honor of visiting two early childhood education programs and one elementary school in the West Bank, funded in part by Anera under the direction of Sulieman Mleahat. We were particularly interested in visiting these programs because of our background in early childhood education (ECE) and elementary education. Bruce Blaisdell has been the executive director of nonprofit agencies providing ECE programs in greater Boston and has been a long-term board member of the largest ECE provider in Massachusetts. Emily Shamieh was the principal of two elementary schools, serving low-income students from pre-kindergarten through grade 5.
Based on our experience, we made the following observations from our visits:
- The ECE programs were located in attractive, new, well-maintained buildings. The classrooms were very well-equipped with age-appropriate materials. The teachers appeared to be well-trained and were engaging the children effectively both in whole class and small group activities. For example, we observed one teacher having students paint to reinforce sound/letter relationships. We felt that these classrooms were as attractive and as well-equipped as any we have seen in Massachusetts.
- The lead teachers in each of the early education sites were knowledgeable and passionate about their programs, suggesting to Sulieman, for example, expansion and improvement of their programs.
- At the elementary school, there was a large greenhouse, containing innovative planting equipment and techniques, used to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. Students were learning about where food comes from and how to grow it as well as the importance of good nutrition. The principal was a champion for this horticultural program, which was introduced by Naser Qadous, the agriculture programs manager at Anera. In addition, at every site we visited, there were trees and flowering bushes provided by Anera.
- In addition to the horticulture instruction at the school, Salameh Naser, showed us photos demonstrating the expansion of the program to families. He has helped families establish gardens on the roofs of their homes, using an irrigation technique which he had developed that requires only minimal water. In one home, a family was able to grow 1,200 kilos of tomatoes. This enabled them not only to provide nutritious food for themselves, but also to sell the produce to the community thereby generating income for their family.
- Finally, we were impressed with Sulieman’s vision and passion for the existing programs and creation of new ones. He impressed us with his ability to raise funds for the projects and to manage them to completion.
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