Jenin- Ali Samoudi- citizenship education seeks to compose citizens who are aware of their rights and duties within the framework they belong to, in addition to the systematic action to enhance capabilities and energies that qualify him/her to protect his/her privacy and identity and practice rights and duties to eventually be able to communicate positively with his/her surroundings.
Mrs. Hala Qubbaj, Manager of the Civic Education Program at the Teacher Creativity Center, says “The sense of citizenship and commitment grows when the citizen strives to identify inner self and surroundings firstly, and by knowledge, cohabitation and proximity secondly”. Qubbaj also added “Via this identification, convictions, images, and awareness concerning the legal, social, and cultural dimensions of citizenship formulate, aiding citizens in determining attitudes, directions as well as capacity building and skills that enable them to creativity.
From this awareness and perspective, the Teacher Creativity Center embarked in 2004 on implementing the Project Citizen methodology in over 1000 thousands Public and UNRWA schools. And until now, the Civic Education program in the TCC is still harvesting the fruits of the projects implemented in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Qubbaj clarified that the projects knocked the doors of officials and decision makers and empowered the students to participate in changing the Palestinian society, to put forward various issues including desertification, pollution, sanitation, school environment, plant diseases and development of the agricultural sector, in addition to issues related to genetic diseases, hospital contamination and others issues related to society and civic problems including sanitation, infrastructure and political projects that were implemented in area C occupied lands.
Qubbaj indicated that numerous achievements were accomplished via Project Citizen in various schools, most important the establishment of the illiteracy center.
In Qalandia Primary School for Girls the students established an illiteracy center, while the students of Rak’a Secondary School for Girls the dilemma of the village of Janbah, near the city of Yatta in Hebron, where the residents suffer from extreme conditions, since the area is classified as area C and is under the complete control of the Israeli occupation. The people of Janbah, approximately 100, live in caves because of the decision of the occupation that prohibits building, and are deprived of their basic needs including water, safe housing, electricity, paved roads and the lack of education.
The students participating in Project Citizen approached the village and over the period of two years were able to advance the status of the village in spite of the security, economic and political challenges. They were able to accomplish this with the aid of numerous local and international organizations, such that they opened a school classroom in a caravan donated by the UNDP, appointed a teacher and the class was recognized by the educational directorate in Yatta as part of the Musafer School.
Last year, the efforts of the students culminated in transforming the classroom into a complete elementary school, recognized by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, educating students from grades 1-4. The students also planted 350 saplings of olives and vegetables in the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, and Governor and Head of Municipality and the Educational Director of Yatta. Additionally, the students were able to establish a twin relationship between the school and the State of Tunisia where exchange visits should take place.
The students participating in Project Citizen were able via the experience of Janbah to bring the problems and obstacles faced by citizens in area C districts to light, clarifying the strains imposed on the citizens of such areas by the occupation, including the lack of proper housing.
The success of this experience crystallized through solving the commuting problem of the citizens of the village to Yatta for schooling purposes, due to the long distance and insecure roads.
Qubbaj clarified that Project Citizen is implemented by the Teacher Creativity Center, and is funded, this year, by the Foundation for the Future; adding that Project Citizen is a multidisciplinary methodology utilizing interactive learning strategies and tools that focus on critical thinking to enable the students to solve their problems and make decisions. The project also focuses on state and governmental processes and social issues, and teaches the participants how to monitor and impact public policy.
Solving special needs students’ problems was among the achievements of Project Citizen, such as the case of Nour Shams Refugee School for Girls in Tulkarem, who first participated in the project the previous year. 8th grade students were able to solve the problem of special needs students’ at the school, such that their plan sought to provide comfort means to facilitate the commuting of special needs students inside the school. The students solved the various problems by constructing an elevator so that special needs students were able to reach the laboratories classes taking place in the third floor. The project was implemented due to a generous donation by people of the refugee camp and those residing in the city of Tulkarem; it was supervised by the UNRWA office in the camp setting an exemplary performance for other schools to follow.