Local Educational Councils Invest in Resources of Local Community
With the aim of investing in the social capital via collecting the efforts and experience in the local community and endorsing it to the benefit of education, the Teacher Creativity Center launched the initiative of establishing Local Educational Councils in nine villages in the Northern West Bank.
Mr. Refaat Sabbah, General Director of the Teacher Creativity Center, said that establishing local educational councils came into being due to the need of the Palestinian society, and aims at collecting and endorsing the efforts of the community to the benefit of education in Palestine. Sabbah added that some studies indicated that community based organizations have a major role in supporting education in Palestine in both the Intifada period and the national authority period, such that numerous schools were built by generous donations to committees, municipalities, or philanthropists, emphasizing that the aim is enhancing and empowering such initiatives by contextualization in a sustainable body in order to develop and improve to contribute to improving the educational environment.
Mrs. Intisar Hamdan, Manager of the Social Responsibility Program at the Teacher Creativity Center and the Coordinator of the Initiative, said that these councils will take action to contribute to solving numerous problems facing the educational sector in Palestine, including infrastructure and social environment problems. Hamdan added that during the trial period of the project, work was done in nine villages in the Northern West Bank: Hajeh and Habla in Qalqilia governorate, Arabeh, Kufr Dan and Barta’ in Jenin governorate, Northern Asira and Beita in Nablus governorate, Anabta in Tulkarem governorate and Wadi Far’a in Tubas governorate. Numerous meetings were held to discuss the concept of the councils, and in order to empower the representatives of the councils, the Teacher Creativity Center held a number of training workshops that focused on advocacy, planning, and intervention projects, in addition to networking and mobilizing skills in order to include parents and local organizations in the councils.
Since the middle of last year, the councils initiated action in the nine villages, and after delegations and discussions took place with community organizations, parents and activists in the area the councils were established and diagnosed the reality of education to adopt an action plan to solve prevailing problems.
Local Educational Council in Arabeh:
The action of the councils started to materialize into qualitative accomplishments and outcomes; for instance, in Arabeh village in Jenin governorate, Mr. Abdul Munem Lahlooh, the coordinator of the council said that a council was established with 9 members including ones from Arabeh municipality, while others were educators and social activists. Weekly meetings are held for the council, which is currently addressing the problem of weak communication between parents and the schools and the implications of such a case on the quality of education. Lahlooh added that numerous activities were implemented to contribute to solving this problem and enhancing the parent/school relationship, such that a number of the council’s members held meetings with the teachers to identify the cause behind the problem.
Lahlooh added that another meeting was held with approximately 80 parents in Arabeh; during this meeting discussions mainly focused on the importance of parent/school communication and implications on the quality of education and the students. Lahlooh emphasized that the council is dividing the tasks and working cooperatively to contribute to solving educational problems; the council is also seeking to hold a meeting with the teaching learning process partners with the students, teachers and parents to discuss the communication problem in depth. The council is currently working on doing a painting murals activity in the whole area, demonstrating for the parents the importance of communicating with the school. Additionally, continuous meeting with be held with mothers to discuss their concerns and in order to provide them with practical mechanisms to follow up with their children after school. Also, the council is seeking to allow parents to attend the classes of their children to become familiarized with the teaching mechanisms of the teachers.
Mr. Imad Abu Salah, a member of the council of Arabeh, said the weakness in the parent/school communication is a relatively simple problem due to the knowledge of the parents concerning the importance of education, facilitating providing support by parents to educational problems.
Local Educational Council in Kufr Dan:
In Kufr Dan village in Jenin governorate, Dr. Maisara Qamamji, the coordinator of the local educational council said that the council decided to address the problem of underachievement among 3rd-7th grade classes, particularly focusing on reading and writing problems among these students.
Qamamji added that the council conducted a research study that demonstrated the immense problem of underachievement, showing that 40-50% of the students are incapable of writing and reading.
Qamamji added that numerous meeting were held, and attention was paid to parents’ participation to solve this problem. The local council contributed significantly to the action of the local educational council. To solve the problem, the council implemented a remedial program to underachieving students, such that the councils announced the program to recruit newly unemployed graduates to work as volunteers in the program and provide the classes for the underachieving students; thereafter, the volunteers were chosen and were given an intensive training course in teaching mechanisms. The local council of Kufr Dan provided 21 thousands shekels to fund the program, and Sharek Youth Forum provided the stationary for the students.
Qamamji added that when council started the remedial program teachers develop an evaluation and diagnosis file for the students; also, one teacher was in charge of only five students to provide sufficient focus for the student to learn reading and writing skills, adding that this project will contribute to solving the problem among students, and to reducing partially the rate of unemployment among graduates since it provided a work opportunity to 20 graduates.
Local Educational Council in Anabta:
The Anabta local educational council decided, according to Mr. Fayeq Mzayed, to focus on the problem of underachievement particularly in writing and reading among 2nd-6th grade students. This decision was taken during an expanded meeting attended by numerous citizens, in which a committee of 11 members formed the local educational council principle members. In order to solve the problem of underachievement in reading and writing, the committee determined the schools in which the project will be implemented, deciding to focus on 4 schools and the achievement of students was determined with the aid of supervisors from the educational directorate.
The implementation of the remedial classes’ project was depended not only on collecting the energies and efforts of newly graduates in the village but also on the teachers and parents of the village; and a student-to-student approach was adopted, such that capable students helped weaker students.
Additionally, Mr. Salah Eldin Najeeb, a member of the local educational council, said that in order to encourage the habit of reading and empower children in reading and writing skills, the council developed an encouragement program via cultural contests incorporating parents.
Local Educational Council in Barta’:
The village of Barta’ is a special case, facing various educational challenges since the village is located behind the separation wall. One of the most important challenges is, according to Mr. Amal Qabaha, the coordinator of the local educational council in Barta’, the lack of interest in education among parents and students, in addition to the low number of teachers available in the village. Mr. Qabaha said that the schools in Barta’ immediately need 4 science-subjects teachers, because even though newly graduates in these specialties are available, however, they lack the interest to work as teachers, adding that there is difficulty attaining permits to reach the village leading to virtually no supervision whatsoever on the teaching system in the village.
Concerning the accomplishments of the local educational council, Qabaha said that the council is seeking to solve the problem of underachievement by holding meetings with parents, adding that the council invited the Sheikh Khatib Jum’a in the village to talk about the importance of education.
Local Educational Council in Wadi Far’a:
The village has two relatively new schools. The coordinator Mr. Issam Salahat said that the council is seeking to implement a “playing project” in coordination with the council of the village, the educational directorate of Tubas and the local organizations to fulfill the needs of the schools.
Local Educational Council in Habla:
7000 citizens inhabit the village of Habla near Qalqilia, which suffers from the implications of the separation wall. Four schools in the village joined the Local Educational Councils Project, with 16 members serving as principle members in addition to supporting members ensuring 50-50 gender equity. Dr. Hussam Alshaer said the municipality of Habla plays a pivotal role in the action of the council in addition to other local organizations in the village.