“Play has a huge impact as an educational activity inside and outside the classroom,” said Fatima El-Oweiti, who joined Anera’s preschool teacher training.
She continued, “When I discovered this, it changed the way I taught. I now use play to boost the child’s physical and psychological growth.” Fatima, 24, is the director of the Haram Shareef preschool in Khan Younis in the southern part of Gaza.
In partnership with Canaan Institute of Pedagogy, Anera has launched an innovative training program. 150 hours of training over eight months prepares 80 preschool teachers from all parts of Gaza to acquire a professional diploma in preschool education. This is the first diploma available to preschool teachers in Gaza.
Early childhood education in Gaza gets creative
During the training, they explore their community and experience “play through education”. The training enables the teachers to improve their teaching skills and strengthen their leadership in the local community. “I have learned how to challenge myself and the community. Traditionally, it isn’t common in the local conservative community to see teachers play with kids,” explained Fatima. “Most families send their children to learn to write and read. Now, according to what we have learned in the training, the child isn’t only a passive receiver of education; he can be an active learner in games,” she explained.
Fatima, along with other trainees, has been taught how to classify toys according to a child’s growth and stage of learning. “Toys are not abstract tools. Play enhances the child’s emotional and cognitive development,” said Fadi Al-Salfiti, the trainer.
Moreover, the training constitutes psychological support to children, who have experienced stress and depression as a result of poverty and the unstable situation in Gaza.
“Now I have greater self-confidence to put myself in their shoes and play with them, even to be creative and develop the games,” Fatima added. “I figured out who I was and what is important to me. After Anera’s training, I trust my abilities.”
This training is also an opportunity to meet new teachers and exchange experiences in early childhood development. “The best part is meeting new people,” Fatima said. “You get into small groups with six or seven people and really bond with them the whole week.”
Before going back to their preschools, the trainees set a plan of action that they will use to evaluate the effectiveness of their training. They hope to be able to show measurable impacts on preschool education in Gaza.
“Nothing is impossible. Everything can be achieved, but it needs patience,” Fatima concluded.