There is no doubt that Najwa Abu Thabet is a dedicated teacher. She arrives at the lone preschool in Gaza’s Musaddar village every day at 7:00 AM to lead teachers and children in outdoor activities before classes start. Everyone joins in to clean the preschool grounds and sometimes prepare healthy meals for the day.
The preschool director also promotes the use of educational toys for her children because she believes in the “play and learn concept.” After 23 years of teaching, she knows the results are positive: they encourage students' creative thinking and growth.
Najwa says she wouldn’t be as successful today if she had not participated in Anera’s training back in 2007. The special awareness sessions were part of Anera’s Milk for Preschoolers program, which helped combat anemia by providing daily snacks of fortified milk and biscuits. The program also included teacher training on health-related topics like hygiene and early childhood education and development.
“I learned how to identify kids with symptoms of anemia and advise parents how to refer them to local clinics for proper treatment.” Najwa explains. “Today I focus on hygiene and the preparation of healthy meals for children and how a mother can do that with minimum costs.” Najwa smiles, “I learned all this in Anera’s training with a professional doctor back in 2007 and it has served me well ever since.” In addition to the health instruction Najwa also earned an Anera certificate in active learning that focused on expressive arts and drama.
By making a point of passing on the materials to other teachers at her school through the years, Najwa is sharing what she learned. “The training is alive in my mind and in my own library,” she says.
She still recalls all the songs she learned about healthy habits, vegetables and fruits to use in class. She says raising awareness about health and nutrition, especially important topics in the remote village, which is far from many basic services.
More Preschool Teacher Training
Najwa is delighted that Anera now is offering more training through its Right Start! program. “I can supervise teachers in the preschool as they practice what they learn and also offer recommendations from my own training and experience.”
Her dedication and professionalism paid off when she was selected to be the preschool’s director in 2009. Today, Najwa also mentors other teachers who have participated in Anera’s Right Start! training on pedagogy, child development, active learning, positive parenting and child rights. “I know this training will put them on the right path to grow professionally,” she added.
Not just a teacher, Najwa is also a wife and mother of six. She smiles with pride as she explains that two children are now in university and the youngest is a student at Musaddar’s preschool.
Her days are long and tiring, but she still finds time for professional development. “I cannot let time or obstacles stand in my way to help the children in my community learn and thrive,” she said. “I'll keep going until I've done everything I can for my students."
Anera has supported Musaddar’s preschool since the start of the Milk for Preschoolers program in 2003. The most recent projects included renovating the school, setting up a reading corner, and delivering brand new TOMS Shoes to all of the children.