Palestinian teachers in the West Bank are embarking on a journey that will take them far in their careers.
"The early childhood sector has come a long way,” says Anera’s education director Sulieman Mleahat to a group of teachers in training. “When Anera first stepped in seven years ago, many in this sector were feeling frustrated and neglected, especially in marginalized areas. Ever since, it has continued to thrive and the future looks very promising.”
Two years ago, The Ghiath and Nadia Sukhtian Foundation (GNSF) approached Anera, wanting to invest in Palestinian education. As a result, an agreement was made with Anera to build — based on its established experience in the early childhood sector— up to 10 kindergartens within the next two years for GNSF in the Nablus area. In addition, Anera will also build a teacher training center during the second year, to be run and owned by the Sukhtian family.
Anera has used its resources to work in partnership with GNSF, so as to help scale up preschool provision for Palestinian children in vulnerable areas. The foundation wishes to invest in education, and Anera would stand side by side with this foundation to use all its resources to work in partnership with it.
A Wonderful Example of Palestinian Philanthropy
GNSF is lead by Mr. and Mrs. Ghiath and Nadia Sukhtian. Mr. Sukhtian was born and raised in Nablus and currently resides in Jordan.
"It's wonderful that many of the Palestinians in the diaspora wish to contribute to the well-being of our children," said Sulieman. "Mr. Sukhtian is remarkable in that sense. We are thrilled to be supporting the GNSF in the establishment of the kindergartens and the teacher development center. This is a positive development for this sector."
Anera would leverage and broker financial and technical support for the development of this sector, in the same way it did earlier this year with the development of the kindergarten curriculum, which we launched in October 2017.
About the Sukhtian Project
The GNSF project brings together 16 teachers from the Nablus area and 11 expert trainers for a unique training course. The training includes an intensive 45-day pre-service training course that ends in April of next year, in tandem with the "practice teaching" component of the training that will take place in host preschools in Nablus and Ramallah. Not only will the teacher trainees observe the work of other more experienced teachers, but they will also have time to practice teaching and implementing activities with young children under the supervision of Anera's early childhood development mentors. That's when their accumulated knowledge will come into play. This will also be followed by field visits to other preschools that have recently benefited from Anera through teacher training and renovation.
Some of the young trainee teachers, some recent graduates, had previously worked as substitute teachers and most have been unemployed for some time. All are enthusiastically looking for a chance to work at public preschools as full time teachers. Upon completion of the course, and passing an official Ministry of Education examination for kindergarten teachers, many— or maybe all— of these trainee teachers will work at one of the five new state-of-the-art preschools that will be constructed during this year in the Nablus area.
When Anera first stepped in seven years ago, everyone in this sector was feeling frustrated and neglected. Ever since, it has continued to thrive and the future looks very promising.
Teachers Perfect Their Craft
Over the past year, GNSF and Anera have been building a teacher program that introduces a higher level of quality training. The comprehensive course covers topics from foundational theoretical knowledge and skills to active learning, language, storytelling, science and math activities, and expressive arts that include music and movement. These efforts will ensure that the future of the early childhood development sector is in safe hands.
"This is the first training of its kind in Palestine," stressed Manar Al-Aker, head of the public education at the Ministry of Education. "It's a solid training course that will open many doors for these teachers."
Liana Habash, who is a teacher trainer at ECRC, a leading local early childhood center, is one of the trainers who will focus on activities and arts as a means of learning. She is enthusiastic about Anera's training and finds in it a golden opportunity to grow professionally. "You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right in front of you. Seize it." She explained to the trainees how teachers are continuously looking for new opportunities to develop their skills. "Throughout my long career, I've had teachers call me, desperate for training, and they're even ready to pay from their own pockets just to learn new skills."
Giving Palestinian Children Space to Grow
The five new preschools are designed while considering child safety and innovation, as they foster children's natural curiosity, ignite active learning and connect children with nature. These new environments will provide preschoolers with the needed space and tools to flourish. Like all the preschools Anera builds and renovates, they will include hand-picked indoor and outdoor games and toys, books, as well as child-friendly furnishings and fixtures.
As Anera works harmoniously on various levels to serve children, it is no coincidence that the launch of the GNSF-funded project coincides with the launch of the Ministry's early childhood curriculum, called the “Kindergarten Teacher’s Guide.” The curriculum is the product of diligent work from the Ministry and from local and international organizations, namely Anera and its former education committee member Dr. Ilham Nasser.
No matter how much you have experienced, there's always a lot to learn.
"The teacher's guide came as a natural development of the early childhood framework that Anera helped establish, which acted as the guide's outline" explains Dr. Nasser. "The guide was designed for the Palestinian child in particular. We strived to make it child-friendly, as well as teacher-friendly. It focuses on practical activities and takes into consideration individual differences." All of the participants in the pre-service teachers course received a copy of the guide book to help them establish a solid foundation.
Mahitab Zeid, 21, is one teacher who’s excited to get started after receiving a diploma in early childhood education. "No matter how much you have experienced, there's always a lot to learn."