01 December 2005

The school

For my Socialanthropology studies I had an assignment to be a part of an environment for a couple of days, to observe. I chose a private school that I had heard som rumours about from friends. Of course my motives behind the stydy was also very personal, having just put my son in first class. Here is what I learned and out of the 150 photos I took, also some of what I saw. I put more photos here (for the assignment).

Inside the classroom

I got to follow Miss Jinan, one of the school's english teachers. She is a very proffessional teacher, managing the classroom with great control but yet some flexibility. She was very well-spoken and it was easy for us to get along. She took her job very serious, prepared her lesson into detail (which is required, but still) and she said she enjoyed it very much. She start her work at 7.30 after a twenty minutes drive to the school and finish at 13.30, thereafter she have around two hours of preparation to complete. Her sallary is 200 dollar a month.

She teaches grade 1-3 (6 years-8 years). The lessons always start with "God Morning Teacher! How are you?", and she let the children sing a lot, play games and act, listen to the lessons, write on the blackboard, write in the textbook, read - she keeps them busy. What surprised me is that the children are very active during class, everyone want to answer Miss Jinan's questions. All the time you hear "Me! Me! Me!".

This school opened just recently with the ambition for a high education level and no punishments. It is strictly forbidden to beat the children which is otherwise very common in Gaza, unfortunately. During my 3 days stay I saw that they however do not live up to their ambition, although this school is much better than others. The yearly fee is around 1000 dollar, whichs includes schooluniforms, books, transportation. Needless to say that this is not a representative school for Gaza, but it is one of the progressive schools.

This school is different in that regard that they have invested in the classrooms (they have quality chairs, desks, curtains), the teachers have a room to sit and prepare their work which is unusual (yes!), the teachers are provided with aids such as taperecorder, and they work with the Brittish Council and use their DVD for showing documentaries for the children. This school does not stand still, they try to learn and develop, which can not be said for other schools in Gaza who still use the same way of teaching as they used for todays students parents.

Having a break

The teachers seemes very much interested in each student. Miss Jinan tells me often about each students personalities "He is a very active boy!" or "She likes to read a lot!" or about their family situation "This father's boy died last year" or "His parents split up" and she tries to help them accordingly. In the teacher's room they discuss improvment of the students, who need extra help and what they can do to improve their classes. They take eachother's opinions. The prepare activities for the lessons and - of course - drink tea.

In the teacher's roomAnother unusual part of the school is the children's art exhibition. They have a special classroom just for arts and here is some of the results. The whole school have posters on the walls with images or wise words like "Qui Cherche Trouve!" in french and arabic. The three with the photos are the best students of each class.

Inside the school

After each break (they only have two during the whole day) they line up for some handclapping and singing on the schoolyard. It's very important to stand in straight lines. Then it is back to class!

Lining up!
Over all the school was very nice. I liked many things. They have invested in quality and have a good ambition. The reality however didn't quite match up which is very sad and left me very hopeless.

To finish this post is a photo from the school's entrance. Says something about the reality of this young generation.


ontheface said...

The school does look very bright and cheerful, and the kids are goregeous - as all children are.

I agree that the last photo is depressing. Unfortunately it symbolizes a lot about this region of the world. In Israel when I enter a cinema or a shopping mall the security guard who searches my bag always asks if I am carrying a weapon.

Abu Sinan said...

Sounds like schools here in the USA. Great set of photos and great story. I had no idea about life in Gaza until I started reading this blog. Awesome.

lisoosh said...

Did you also look at non progressive schools for comparison?
How does the teachers salary match up to those of teachers in "state" (I'm not sure what term to use) schools? And how would it compare to other professionals in Gaza?
It is a very interesting post, but I would love to know more about education in Gaza to understand what would make this school different, or stand out.
Great pictures, as always.

Savtadotty said...

Having just gone through school selection vicariously, for my granddaughter in the US, I am curious to know how many children one teacher is responsible for, and whether the school has a library?

MomTo5 said...

It looks like it is an very good school i guess it is an expensive one.
I have my kid in an UNERWA/FN school here in the Palestian camp in Syria.
Thanks for photos dear Imaan!

Imaan On Ice said...

The schools in Gaza holds a very low standard, so that this school is better than others doesn't actually say that much... The good thing is that they have an ambition and I wish that they keep fighting for it. This school LOOKS very beautiful, but it still suffer some problems. Punishment is too common unfortunately (I do not dare to think of how it is for the children in government-run schools...) and I think in order to change that you need to change the teachers attitude, not just forbid it, but to really change the way teachers think about it. Now it's just considered normal.
I compare this school to my son's school. This one is better.
Yes, it has a library but with few books. So not really a REAL library. The reading-habit is close to non-existing in Gaza.
Each teacher have around 20-22 students in each class. As for sallary in other schools I'll get back. About the fee can be said that it is one of the more expensive in Gaza, but not the most expensive.

Elizabeth said...

There are plenty of public schools in the U.S. that don't have libraries. Many right here in New York City...

As for your comment about child abuse--I was wondering if it was a bigger problem than what's generally acknowledged. When I was in the West Bank a year ago, I was doing some work for the Ibdaa Health Committee in Dheisheh who were trying to initiate projects on children's mental health. One thing they wanted to do was a project on child abuse, to educate both parents and also professional who are not necessarily knowledgeable about child abuse. I did some fundraising for them. If anyone reading this blog is interested in getting involved with them, I can give you the emails of the people I was working with.

Judy said...

Imaan, I'd say this looks an encouraging school. The classrooms look orderly, the quality of displays and the children's work on the walls looks good (in as far as I can tell, not knowing anything about standards of Arabic. It looks of a higher standard than an Islamic school I've visited in the UK.

The children are also apparently wearing their uniforms very tidily. They will usually only do that if there are high standards and expectations in a school. Most liberals might disagree, but as an inspector I could virtually tell you the standards at the school as soon as I see how the uniform is being worn. Shouldn't be the case, but actually it is.

Your child only gets once chance at school.....

It's good that you've got something to compare with your son's school.

lisoosh said...

So... Do you think you may transfer your son to there? You did say that he is unhappy in his current school.

Judy said...

I looked at the photos on your extra site. I think this school looks encouraging, even if it is not yet living up to its stated ambitions. If a school is new, it may not have had enough time to train its teachers to work consistently in the way it expects--especially if they came from schools which do beat children etc.
What's most encouraging is the children's eagerness to learn. It is not easy to get children to be as keen to answer as you show the children are in the photos and your reports. If they are regularly bored, children give up on their teachers and amuse themselves in other ways. I am also very encouraged by the way in which the teacher involves the children in making presentations (like the girls at the front of the picture). This would get a "good" rating on personal development, according the English inspection system.

It's very unusual to see a dedicated art room in a primary school even in England, so that seems to be encouraging too. Though the quality of the art is limited, much of the it looks as if it is done with care and pride.

Did you manage to see the contents of what they wrote in their books? Was the standard the same or different from in your son's school?

Sandra said...

Hi Imaan. I stayed up half the night reading your fascinating story! My husband is Palestinian too, but we live far from Gaza, in Korea. I've added your blog to my sidebar and I look forward to reading more about your life.

Anonymous said...

hi my feiends
i am mohammed from gaza i thank you imman about this things and i want to be feiend with any one like you .i hope the peace spread all over the world
to keep in touch

Sara said...

Hi Everyone

I am a teacher in Dubai - I would like to set up a student communication link with a Gaza school. Does anyone have the email contact details of a school/teacher that may be interested?