For the lives of the Children of Palestine.
The current Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, has had a devastating toll on Palestinian youth. One important area of the devastation is education. Many schools have been occupied or even destroyed. Countless hours/days of class have been lost to the seemingly endless military curfew. Too much class time has been lost because teachers can't make it through the checkpoints or are arrested.
For 850 West Bank schools this year, a total of 22 school days had already been lost by the beginning of March.[i] Meanwhile, University is now a distant dream for former and aspiring students. (See table 1)
Just going to school is made difficult or impossible by checkpoints and dangerous military operations. The presence is more than intimidating for the youth caught in the middle of the conflict. For them, all they know is they need to go to school to gain the knowledge that will provide them with a future, that many are not sure they will have.
At least 447 primary and post-secondary students have been killed.[ii] Hundreds have been arrested and over 2500 others injured.[iii] Hundreds of schools have been closed (sometimes permanently), damaged or destroyed. Many children are so distressed by their daily situation that concentration in class, if they continue to attend, is difficult. Psychological trauma and hopelessness are soaring. Children are losing their fundamental human rights to life and education. Their generation is truly becoming a lost generation
The following project is aimed at addressing these problems, trying to ease the pain and desperation of the youth with a project that provides them with out-of-school education. This would consist of education centers set-up throughout the city via co-operation between different groups in civil society, and with the aid of local and international volunteers. This pool of internationals could be selected from people with good experience under the occupation, through advertisements on sites such as idealist.org, through co-operation with international voluntary groups, and through centers of education in the community like the An-Najah National University, which brings in many international volunteers.
Project Hope will focus on entertainment and education. These two principles will be used to provide new skills, relieve the intensive boredom and despair, and most importantly, provide Hope.
This is to help deal with the intense boredom, stress and depression inherent under such a strong occupation.
To help make up for the countless days of education lost due to the conflict and help provide extra training for the future.
The very fact something is being done to prepare the youth for their future, gives them a sense that they will not only have but see a future. The youth will be provided with one of the most important commodities in life -- Hope. Hope to survive and persevere through their difficulties.
The project is not political. Its sole purpose is to help the people and children in whatever capacity possible.
The education Centers would be set-up in areas as safe from conflict as possible (safe havens) and provide needed extra education, entertainment and Hope.
International volunteers could participate by protecting the Palestinian youth with their very presence, and providing entertainment and teaching whatever they might be able to teach (with a focus on English as a second language). Their presence is a tremendous sign of solidarity that provides hope to a people that feel abandoned. Ideally it would be great to involve Israeli volunteers, but at this stage in the conflict, the difficulties are too great to attempt to have them in the Palestinian territories.
University students would be able tutor and teach younger students, giving each an opportunity to fill the immense boredom and misery that has come with the current occupation, and providing extra experience to add to their resumes. Local teachers would be encouraged to volunteer their time to provide extra education.
Constructive projects, like street cleaning and repairing damaged buildings, would give the youth something to do and provide them the sense that they are in some way helping the community to survive.
Different games, activities and parties would be organized to provide social entertainment. Ideally, some sort of psychological support program could be set up for the children to try and deal with their trauma. At the very least this would consist of discussion groups for people to talk about difficulties of the current situation.
These would all be peaceful activities helping people to deal with the pain and monotony (nothingness) of the current occupation, and a way for the youth to participate in daily life without endangering it by throwing rocks at military or loitering in the dangerous streets.
The project would address the needs of both boys and the girls. It would provide great opportunities to young women and girls, who find it even more difficult to leave the home and participate in the community.
Because of logistics, the project would focus solely on the important West Bank city of Nablus as the pilot project. Education Centers would be established throughout Nablus, bringing together different local and international groups for their daily operation. It would also encourage community interaction in a peaceful and constructive manner, with an effect of strengthening civil society. The Centers would provide many bored and despondent people with something to do and look forward to in their days. Children would not have to look to the perilous streets as their sole source of amusement.
The ideal is to expand to reach as many people as possible, with Centers set-up throughout the city – especially in the despondent and impoverished refugee camps. Nablus would be just a testpilot, with the hope that the project expanded to other Palestinian cities and villages.
Project Hope would provide educational and skills development for the future, in this time of continual loss.
Staff and Participants
The first priority would be funding for the senior partners that would initialize the project. This would consist of at least 1 female international, 1 male international, 1 Palestinian local female, 1 Palestinian local male.
These international senior partners will play an important role. They have freedom of movement through checkpoints that no Palestinian has. Unmarried Palestinians under the age of 35 officially do not have freedom of movement between towns and cities. The checkpoints are fairly easy to pass for internationals. It is also unlikely they will be harassed, beaten or killed by soldiers when caught moving about the territories. The soldiers are more likely to treat the internationals with respect and dignity. In addition, they have access to Israeli territory and other countries if they are needed to go there to pick up supplies, attend meetings, or meet any need outside of the Palestinian territories.
It is also important to have at least a male and female local Palestinian partner. They have important language skills and important knowledge of the local culture. It is also important to ensure that the project has Palestinian leadership, with cooperation between the international and Palestinian activists. Ideally, the international partners will work towards making their jobs irrelevant so that it can be completely Palestinian-led.
It is of utmost importance to get the two international senior partners to Nablus as soon as possible in order to set-up the project. It is especially true during the Iraq war. Some Israeli officials have stated that they will then be able to do what they want, and the experience of the Gulf War during the First Intifada was a marked increase Israeli oppression. These are bad signs. It is very likely regular schooling will become even more difficult.
Initial funding for the first couple of months would be the most important. The first 2 - 4 weeks would be spent on networking, creating connections between different groups in civil society, and with field information on the current situation creating a comprehensive and profession policy proposal. During military occupation the situation changes so dramatically by the day, that a month can be like a lifetime and see fundamental changes. For this reason it is imperative to be on the ground and get first-hand, up-to-date information to properly implement the project.
Comprehensive educational targets in this program will be difficult to fulfill (my changes) due to the erratic and unpredictable nature of life under military occupation. The main goal of this project however, to provide hope through the joint provision of education and entertainment in young lives, cannot be underestimated. Through this project, Palestinian youth will gain the skills necessary to advance in the future, and the hope necessary to survive to see that future. You can be a part of this process of transformation.
Some educational targets could be set, but they may be unrealistic since it is difficult to say how much children will be able to improve under current circumstances. Targets would be set by each teacher for each class, depending on what the instructor thinks he/she can accomplish. Basically, it would be doing the best and the maximal good possible.
The main goals are using education and entertainment to provide Palestinian youth with the skills to advance in the future, and the hope necessary to survive to see a future. This will be difficult to measure outside providing progress reports and news back to the funders, for them to assess the achievements of Project Hope.
In this time of crises, it is important to try and save the innocent lives that are being stolen. Aid and money is needed to make the project a reality, and help these children. The world cannot forget their plight.
For more information, contact:
Between September 2000 and 14 January 2003:
298 students below the age of eighteen have been killed
149 university and college students have been killed
214 students below the age of 18 have been detained
166 students were arrested
75 teachers were arrested
383 university and college students have been detained
2767 students below the age of 18 have been injured, many with permanent disabilities
684 university and college students have been injured
3 universities have been broken into
9 schools have been vandalized
1289 Palestinian schools were temporarily closed
1125 schools and nearly all higher education institutions have suffered suspension of study
9 schools have been totally closed
25 schools have been used by the Israeli military army barracks and detention centers
185 schools were shelled by Israeli military forces
197 schools were damaged
11 schools have been completely destroyed[iv]
[i] Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, Israeli Child Rights Violations during the Intifada, 5 March 2003 (Retrieved 18 March 2003, http://www.dci-pal.org/english/)
[ii] Defense for Children International, “The Ministry of Education and The Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute” (Retrieved 18 March 2003 The International Solidarity Movement under "The Right to Education http://www.palsolidarity.org )
[iii] 2,610 pupils have been wounded on their way to or from school, Palestine Monitor, (Retrieved 18 March 2003, http://www.palestinemonitor.org/factsheet/children.htm)
[iv] Defense for Children International, “The Ministry of Education and The Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute” (Retrieved 18 March 2003 The International Solidarity Movement under "The Right to Education http://www.palsolidarity.org )
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