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.
Nawal Kanori, headmistress of the Coed secondary school in Al Jiftlik, Jordan Valley. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I am looking forward to working hard with new graduate students to give them opportunities. 3 days ago I met with 36 girls and asked them, what do you want, how can we improve the situation with education. I am committed to improving the education here, you see the only thing we have is education. It is the most important thing to lead us to a better future. I am looking for good chances for the graduates. I want scholarships for my excellent students. I want to connect them to the outside world.
What are your biggest challenges in the children going to school?
The main road in Jiftlik is always full of soldiers, we have Israeli settlements all around. Jiftlik is a very wide area, many students come by foot or by bicycle. I always feel afraid about them. There are often road accidents because the army and settler cars drive really fast. The soldiers sometimes stop the children, on the road and on the bus. They have tried to take children off the bus because they say that they throw stones. But I am the first one here every morning, I see everything, and none of the children at my school throw stones. We are peaceful in Jiftlik. Once we were coming back from a school trip through Hamra checkpoint, the soldiers stopped the bus for 3 hours because they said to the children ‘why are you laughing at me?’ I told him they were not laughing at him, they were joking and singing because they were happy at going on a school trip. But he held us for a long time and it made me nervous. Even children are expected to suppress their feelings under the occupation.
What is needed for education in Palestine to thrive?
I have three graduates studying science and engineering at university abroad, it was before we had a building and the school was in a tent. Their classmates in Canada, Norway and the US ask them, ‘how do you get better grades than me when you went to a tent school?’ They work very hard, it makes me proud. However, many schools suffer from students who are clever and want to travel to study abroad, but the Israelis have forbidden them from travelling. We want the outside world to be open to us, to share experiences and ideas. We don’t have planes and bombs, we are peaceful people. The only thing we have is education. We want to walk side by side with this changing world, not to be cut off. Everything will be easier if the occupation will end.
As teachers we want to give our students the best. For example the primary school here has 900 students and there are many duties on the teachers and headmaster. If I want to build a school so that there are fewer children in the classes, say 450 for each school, in order to give a better education. If I want to do this, I will have a block: the occupation. I have to consider renting our own village’s land from the Israelis who took it from us, just imagine! And then I will have 5 or 6 years of struggle to try get permission from the Israelis to let me build. It was back in 2005 when I started thinking about building a secondary school for Al Jiftlik, I thought man has gone to the moon yet we have no school. I have been a teacher since 1999. It is not complicated to run a school if there is no occupation.
*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
*Share the series on facebook with your friends.
*Check out last year’s photo essay: Visualizing Back to School in Palestine.