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Occupied Palestinian Territory: Newsline

Palestinian teenagers reflect on their rights

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©Teacher Creativity Center
Palestinian children engaging in action learning.

“You have to be a fighter to be able to get what you want or be who you want to be, especially women. This is one of the reasons why I instill courage and confidence in my teenage students to have a goal and go for it,” said a dedicated female Palestinian teacher in 2000.

The second uprising from 2000 on and Israel’s extremely violent suppression of it had a grave effect on the children of Palestine. A study by Defense of Children International (DCI) showed that almost 80% of the children in the West Bank and Gaza suffered from psychological, health and educational problems. What could educators do?

Engaging whole communities for action learning

Teenage boys and girls were differently affected. Many young males living in confrontation areas such as Jenin refugee camp in the north of the West Bank waited
with home-made weapons in the streets for clashes with the army. How could their energy be channelled for a constructive purpose?

Teacher Creativity Center, together with UNICEF, took a comprehensive approach. It was impossible just to go to and try to convince the 15-16 yearolds. The
atmosphere was simply too militant. The whole of the surrounding society had to be involved. The parents, and especially the mothers, were very open to the project. Eighty workshops were held for parents’ councils, mothers, youth centers, women’s groups, students from universities and schools and local councils. Some sixty local teachers discussed risks of children’s participation in militant acts and its psychological and physical consequences. Crucially, dozens of organizations including all political parties issued a statement calling for the noninvolvement of children in militant acts.

“When you live in a conflict situation such as experiencing prolonged 24-hour curfews, as has regularly happened in the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank, writing your personal story is a way of coping, of finding orientation, rest and reflection in a bewildering and dangerous situation.”

 

Then the way was open to engage the children in action learning. With the help of trained educators, and with the full support of the community, the young people discussed and tried to come up with solutions to local problems that affected children’s rights such as the lack of places to play or the lack of safety on the roads. Finding ways of coping through personal writing.

Unlike the boys, Palestinian girls and young women have usually not been involved in clashes with the Israeli army. They have often felt very powerless, witnessing events on the sideline and groping for a role. The Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem (AEI-Open Windows) encouraged personal writing by school students from across the Bethlehem and Hebron districts, such as in a diary, a life story, a dream, an interview or an Englishlanguage letter to an American presidential candidate.

The participation of girls in these activities was generally stronger. Why? A possible reason is that in daily life women and girls are better story-tellers and story-writers. It is easier to ask girls to keep a diary. When you live in a conflict situation such as experiencing prolonged 24-hour curfews, as has regularly happened in the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank, writing your personal story is a way of coping, of finding orientation, rest and reflection in a bewildering and dangerous situation. In personal writing, you can express and differentiate emotions -bringing out tension through black humor for instance. By sharing and discussing your stories with other children, you show compassion and concern. At a diary project at St Joseph School in Bethlehem, in which girls’ diaries like Anne Frank’s were used as source of inspiration, children of the 11th grade wrote in detail about their feelings after hearing that the younger sister of a classmate was shot dead.

For more information please contact Teacher Creativity Center tcc@teachercc.org and AEI Open Windows aei@p-ol.com.


 

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