The exams period during primary and secondary school is a very stressful period to all children and teenagers, no matter if they live in Germany, South Africa or in Uruguay. For Palestinian students, however, this is an extra stressful period of the year.
The Headmaster of As Sawiya School talks to soldiers as they prevented children from getting to school on 3 December 2014. Photo EAPPI/A. Tesche.
Israeli soldiers and authrities outside As Sawiya School. Photo EAPPI/A, Tesche.
During exam periods, the Israeli army often increases their presence in and around Palestinian schools. Hyped-up by their encounters with the soldiers, it is extremely difficult for students to concentrate on their studies in the classroom.
Soldiers lay down while outside As Sawiya School. Photo EAPPI/B. Viney-Wood.
Soldier light up a cigarette while outside As Sawiya School. Photo EAPPI/B. Viney-Wood.
EAPPI does school runs as part of its Access to Education initiative, which aims to guarantee children’s access to education despite the hardships of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The aim of the school runs is to offer protective presence to children on their way to and from school and monitor human rights violations against the children.
On 3 December, we witnessed first-hand the difficulties of going to school for Palestinian children during exam periods. On this day, Israeli soldiers prevent children and teachers from getting to school. We arrived on the scene at 7:40 am and stayed until all were allowed to enter school around 8:15 am.
When asked why they closed the school, soldiers responded that there had been stone throwing the day before. The headmaster of the school informed us, however, that he was at school the previous day until 2pm and there had been no stone throwing.
Israeli soldiers watch as boys walk to As sawiya school. Photo EAPPI/R. Viney-Wood.
Boys wait to get to As Sawiya school. Photo EAPPI/R. Viney-Wood.
School girls ask why they are not allowed to go to As Sawiya school. Photo EAPPI/R. Viney-Wood.
Israeli soldiers walk towards As Sawiya school. Israeli soldiers are frequently present as children go to and from school in As Sawiya. During exam time, they increase their presence. Photo EAPPI/R. Viney-Wood.
Female teachers ask soldiers why they are not allowed to go to As Sawiya school. Photo EAPPI/R. Viney-Wood.
IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW. BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION. WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS.
Sameh Shahrouj, Age 24. An English Teacher at As Sawiya School. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.
What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to teaching the students the new curriculum and building strong bases in English through new methods, like mixing games with abstract material. I want to focus on their personalities [the students], because nobody cares about the students personalities, even in his or her house.
What are your biggest challenges in going to school?
There are a few…
The location of the school is far from my nearest bus stop
The number of students in each class is too big. So it is difficult to control them.
Most importantly. Students don’t like the English language. So it is very hard to convince my students that this is the most important language in the world. So you have to find interesting ways to teach.
What is needed for education to thrive in Palestine?
It needs many things…
The mentality of the teachers needs to change. We need to change this traditional mentality. They don’t want to use technology. Instead of using technology, they are destroying it. The main problem is that the parents don’t care about their children, so they send them to school just to get rid of them. A student is lucky if his friend’s parents care. The popular perspective for students now is to drift away from school to go work in Israel so they can earn money and buy designer labels. So focusing on the teachers, the parents and the whole system is needed. Some statistics I have read say the problem is in the curriculum, or in the teachers, or in the parents. I think the problem is within them all.
I don’t like to focus on the political situation because it is used as an excuse. We have a saying like ‘putting all your clothes on one iron rod’; we find an excuse and blame it on something else. The political situation is a reason for problems, but it is not the only reason, and we need to realize this.