Teacher Creativity Center strongly believes in the importance of primary school education in building the academic foundations of students in their future years of study and the development it facilitates during and throughout the students’ life. Sensitive to the levels of illiteracy among students in primary school which is further enhanced by the automatic pass system and the lack of educational training to deal with students with learning difficulties in Palestine, TCC saw it as imperative to implement a project that helps students overcome learning obstacles in these crucial years of holistic and cognitive pupil development. With the financial help of the Norwegian People’s Aid this dream came true.
With the funding of the NPA, TCC has implemented remedial after school classes in 3 schools in Jenin (Arrabeh, Kfor Dan and Burqin) and 3 schools in Ramallah (Qalandia, Kfor Aqab and Bomidyan). The project began in September 2011 with classes commencing in November that same year. The classes are expected to continue running until mid April 2012 in which the project ends and will be able to reflect on the extent of its success in all three schools
The remedial after school classes and weekend camps is based on the implementation of after school strengthening classes in core subject areas, Arabic, Math, Science and English for students in the second, third and fourth grades. The remedial classes takes place for 3 hours after school hours 4 days a week whilst the weekend camp takes place over 5 consecutive hours during the weekend camp (taking place either on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday – depending on the school’s weekend). The weekend camps provide more than just extra tutoring in the four subject areas but also provides students with educational therapy to enable them to overcome learning obstacles faced in schools in a non-intrusive manner. It provides students with the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills through activities that enhance competencies and are characteristically educationally and recreationally oriented.
The fusion of educationally and recreationally oriented activities enhances academic and non-academic development of the students and hence facilitating holistic development and growth as well as enhancing student academic performance. During the classes, reading, writing and numeracy are the single most important activity component, however, students use drama, arts and crafts, story-telling, creative writing and thinking, amateur debating and educational games as a means for enhanced cognitive learning, self-therapy and skill development.
Teacher-parents meetings were carried out at schools to gain parental feedback and allow for greater communication between the parents and the remedial class teachers. At Qalandia, Bilal’s mother had stated at the last meeting the importance of this project on her son, she asserted: “I want Bilal to stay in the program. He has academically improved a lot. He obtained a 30/40 in his final governmental exams in comparison to last year. This program has really helped Bilal.” At the same time, Omar’s mother had commented on her son’s improvement in reading and writing. Mohammad Adel’s father had also discussed how the classes have positively reflected on his son, he asserted: “He couldn’t read at all. I was happy to see him flicking through the television reading the different channels on his own and choosing watch to watch.” According to the educational councillor at Qalandia, Rima Khuffash, the project has greatly enhanced Ahmad Samer’s motivation to learn and attend classes, even though he lacked this prior to the classes. He easily got distracted, got bored and often distracted himself with lunch. He is now one of the most committed students attending the remedial classes. He enjoys the classes and has a very strong motivation to learn; participating and interacting during all lessons. There has been a noticeable improvement in terms of his academic level.” Another student at Qalandia, Naim, is in his fourth grade. He had problems in reading and writing letters and numbers. Student B would read numbers and letter in reverse. He wrote his name in reverse, starting from the last and subsequently making it towards the first, he wasn’t able to identify the letters and wrote his name by drawing it. This pupil is now able to identify letters and pronounce in both Arabic and English.
Kfor Aqab School witnessed a vast improvement in student levels. This was affirmed by both the parents at the teacher-parent meeting and by the principal of the school. Summayyah Shahdeh stated “that their motivation towards studying has greatly improved especially with regards to follow up”. Hadeel’s mother on the other hand had stated at the meeting that: “My daughter was always weak academically and different to other girls. After the remedial classes, I have noticed a great improvement in her motivation to study. She has notably improved, not just academically but through her desire to study at home”. It wasn’t however just the feedback of parents and teachers that signalled the level of improvement, it was the marks. Ali Seekh had been underachieving and had failed Arabic and Math in the previous governmental exams. Now in the fourth grade, he has passed both Arabic and Maths. This success has mirrored with several other students at Kfor Aqab, including Huthayfa who enjoyed the same success in Arabic and having failed the year prior; Abdallah and Amira. According to Suhad Darawsheh the educational councillor at Kfor Aqab, “Nour could not read. Nour now reads abd has passed in both Arabic and Math since the remedial classes”.
At Huwwari Bomidyan School, Sonia Mahmood the educational councillor of this program at the school discussed various success stories enjoyed at Huwwari. Khuloud, one of the remedial class students, could not recognise letters at all nor was she familiar with them. With much focus, she is now able to read, write and arrange letters in the correct order. Her dedications towards homework assignments has increased. At the personal level, Khuloud was very shy and introverted, she now however takes initiative in solving problems on the board and eagerly participates in educational game. Omar and AbdelRahman had difficulties in pronunciation and problems in speech, often leaving them very shy in reading letters or words. Much emphasis and focus funnelled into speech until they overcame their problem.