A new preschool for refugee children in Gaza
“I think it's hard for people to imagine living in a densely-populated refugee camp,” Amal says. “Preschool offers a haven for children to enjoy a respite and escape the harshness of life here.”
Amal always dreamed of a new building for her young students, but it never seemed achievable.
“Each time I saw my children coming to the preschool with so little, it made my heart ache. I would offer whatever I possibly could to comfort them and prayed so hard that one day my dream would come true” says Amal Arandas, principal of Nuseirat Preschool.
Nuseirat is a refugee camp in the middle area of Gaza.
“I think it's hard for people to imagine living in a densely-populated refugee camp,” Amal says. “It generates a lot of pressure and deprives children of basic rights like access to safe spaces to play. Preschool offers a haven for children to enjoy a respite and escape the harshness of life here.”
The teacher explains that the condition of the dilapidated old preschool building was disastrous. It was almost at the point of collapsing.
Amal says “It's hard to say when the old school was originally built. My best guess is that it was over 40 years old.” Conditions inside the preschool were not pleasant or conducive to learning. The plastic rooftop constantly leaked water into the classrooms, making them dangerous during Gaza's rainy winters. Lighting throughout the building was poor, and rooms were too small to accommodate the number of children enrolled. Amal also had to make calls to the municipality every day to ask them to clean the street in front of the school.
Thanks to generous support by Howard Hallengren, Anera recently built a new preschool to replace the old building.
“After Anera constructed the new building, all these conditions improved. Now we have cleaner, more easily accessible bathrooms and safer classrooms. Lighting is better and there is enough space for all of our children," she says.
The preschool is now serving 152 children and may add an extra afternoon shift. “When the Anera team finished construction, the preschool immediately became desirable to families. Parents living in Nuseirat are excited about enrolling their children at the new preschool."
The preschool opened for children in February, before the pandemic forced a closure of schools. In early March, the camp was also struck by tragedy when a bakery not far from the school was destroyed in a devastating accidental gas explosion. Fortunately the school was not damaged in the resulting fire.
In this era of COVID-19, the preschoolers are now staying home. Amal has taught the parents some techniques for engaging their kids in learning at home, such as using recycled materials as tools for learning. Egg cartoons, old toothbrushes and shampoo bottles, for instance, can become props for improving math skills and creating art.
“I am fond of children. I wish I could spend all of my time with them,” Amal says. “I can’t wait for them to come back to school! Every day with them is extraordinary for me."