17 Oct 2011

2011 monitoring visit

2011 news No Comments

Dan and Angela Simpson have just returned from their second visit to the region*, to monitor current activities and to extend the Trust’s range of contacts. See full report below.

Left: current DSMT scholarship girls (school and higher education) from the Dar El Tifl School with Angela Simpson. Right: Pupils at the Bardala Girls School, a government school in the north of the Jordan Valley, using microscopes donated by the DSMT via ANERA.

“We were very heartened and encouraged by what we saw and heard. The young beneficiaries are enthusiastic and hopeful about their studies and their futures, despite the day to day difficulties they have to negotiate. The leaders of the educational organisations DSMT is working with are exceptional people: visionary, totally committed, determined to make a difference for the young people in their care. Everyone we met asked us to pass on their thanks to our supporters, not only for the financial assistance but for the psychological boost that comes from knowing that people elsewhere in the world care about their well-being and want to commit to them for the long-term. DSMT’s challenge now is to extend our sources of funding so that we can work with our partners on a longer term basis.”

* This trip was financed by Dan and Angela Simpson.

Edited version of visit report written for DSMT board following visit in Sept 2011:

Summary

We felt our visit was a success; all meetings except one happened as planned.

The vision, dedication, determination and sheer hard work of all the educational leaders we met were truly impressive. They keep battling on against obstacles that would defeat many people.

The excellence of the Dar El Tifl School was confirmed by several independent sources and our confidence in working with the DTA organisation[1] directly on both scholarships funds was confirmed.

Time spent with VTC staff and students confirmed the information we receive in reports, on the relevance and effectiveness of the programme we are funding.

The project with Bardala School has at last come to fruition and we witnessed equipment and materials DSMT had funded being used in classrooms.

Our meetings with other organisations who are not recipients of DSMT funding were all worthwhile and increased our knowledge on issues of education and funding.

Reports on individual visits: project partners

1. Dar El Tifl School 19/9/11

General position of the Dar El Tifl School

There are currently 980 pupils of whom 103 are ‘orphans’ ie have lost one parent, including 5 girls from the same family without their father, and 3 girls who have neither parent living. The latest annual report (2009-10) includes a lengthy list of donors though keeping pace with rising costs remains problem. We got the impression there is still some money from the original founders (Husseini family) but the school receives no public funding. Cash flow continues to be a problem.  Rising overheads, especially utilities are adding to this.

An education for their daughters at Dar El Tifl still remains an ambition for many parents, irrespective of their income.  This is because of its acknowledged quality but also because it is known to subsidise places for less well-off girls, whose options would otherwise be the Israeli Municipality schools for Arab children in Jerusalem, which are of poor quality and are seen by Palestinians as deliberately supressing pupils’ ambitions to produce workers for the Israeli state.

This year’s funding

Funding for this year’s scholarships was transferred to the school the week before our visit and its arrival was confirmed.   DTA clearly appreciates our on-going support, financial and psychological, but for them now, sustainability and predictability of contribution are what they ideally need.  Being able to tell them we had earmarked funding for next year (assuming this year’s arrangements go well) was a real plus, and warmly welcomed. We were asked to pass on grateful thanks to the DSMT board and all our supporters.

School scholarship holders

The six school scholarships girls bounded in bearing gifts with much smiling and warmth. There was a marked difference in confidence between the 12th and 11th graders, as might be expected, especially in using English.  The former also looked older than their photos of a year ago.  All the girls knew who we were, understood what the DSMT is about and had visited the website.   They were able to tell us about what they were studying, their extra-curricular interests, their ambitions, but their real enthusiasm was for Facebook at which mention the discussion took off animatedly.  Details of the current scholarship holders are on the website now.

HE scholarship holders

DTA had arranged for Tamara and Hala to attend the meeting. Tamara is very articulate in English now, is keen to get a good degree and is researching sources of funding for an MSc. She is immensely grateful to the DSMT, especially for sticking with her in the early days.

Hala’s English is also excellent.  She explained she would not have been able to study full time had she not won the scholarship, and was intending trying to get a job and study part-time.  Her major is English Literature with minor in Business Administration, chosen to combine what she loves with what she hopes will improve her employment prospects.

Additional grant of $5,000 from Abraaj in 2010

Evaluation feedback had been provided some weeks back, but we also saw sets of reading books to support the teaching of English to younger pupils (all bearing our DSMT stickers), reading books in English for the library, and equipment to help teach basic maths.  Some of this money had also been used to fund disadvantaged girls to take part in school visits and outings.  CDs of photos have been provided.

 

2. Early Childhood Resource Centre 19/09/11

General position of the ECRC

We visited the ECRC headquarters in Beit Hanina, a suburb of Jerusalem for a meeting with director, Nabil Sublaban.  We didn’t visit any activities this time as the Expressive Arts project DSMT funded in 2010-11 was completed in May and photos and project report submitted before our visit. (See website)

We were updated on the ECRC’s current position.  For the last few years ECRC have been able to cover overheads from some large project grants from Oxfam Netherlands that included coverage of core costs.  This organisation is now de-centralising and opening its own office in the Palestinian Territories.  ECRC hopes to get some core funding from them for one more year, but knows they will not after that.   They also produce and sell books for children and run a kindergarten on their site, and some of this income goes towards core funding, but doesn’t cover it all.

Apparently they face a further pressure in that they challenged a very large hike in rent two years ago and refused to pay.  They have now lost their case and so face a hefty repayment.

The ECRC really needs to be part of proper strategic governmental kindergarten provision in the region, but this is easier said than done.   (See also Teacher Creativity Centre below).  The great majority of early years provision is privately funded. The Palestinian Authority funds just 2 kindergartens in the whole region. Meanwhile ECRC appears to be between a rock and a hard place, but one would need to know more detail to understand this properly.

Possibility of working directly with a kindergarten

We had approached the ECRC about this before the visit and Nabil suggested one, in a village called ‘Arura, 20 km north of Ramallah with a population of around 3000.  If we decide to move forward on this, the work would be managed through ECRC’s Ramallah office.  He gave us some information about the area, but we there was  not time to discuss the details at that point.  This can be followed up over the autumn with a view obtaining some sort of feasibility report by the end of the year. Funding has been allocated to the ECRC for this year when plans are firmed up.

 

3. Bardala School for Girls 20/09/11

Getting there

It was touch and go right up till the morning of our visit whether we would be able to go because of the ‘security situation’ ie anxieties about potential trouble in the run-up to the application to the UN.  Had ANERA not taken us we would have been unlikely to get there that day.

The school is at the far north of the Jordan Valley. The road runs right along the wire fence that marks the border with Jordan.  The river is in the valley out of view but the hills of Jordan rise up behind it.  Bedouin farmers were camping and grazing their flocks by the side of the road (perhaps not for long; according to a recent MAP campaign all Bedouin in this area are to be served with eviction notices by the Israeli state from January 2012).  Otherwise we saw few people or traffic on the journey.

The project

The school was off a side-road off a side-road, dusty and hot but in a lovely shade of creamy gold that characterises the stone in the area. ANERA funded a new school building, which is how they came to know about the school and its feisty head teacher.  A delegation was waiting to meet us: Ms Fadwa the head teacher and several men who had come from the Ministry of Education (the school is funded through the Palestinian Authority).  We had coffee and cakes and photo opportunities in the Head’s office and were presented with a plaque to mark the occasion.

Remarkably, given that it has taken two years for it to happen, the project has worked, in so far as the money has been spent appropriately (directly by ANERA in the end), the equipment and books acquired via approved suppliers, the science cupboards built and looking robust and fit for purpose, and – on the day we were there at least – girls were in classrooms making use of what the DSMT funds had provided.

We were taken to view all that had been purchased: computers (5), electronic microscopes (6), anatomy microscopes (6) LCD monitor and screen (1), printer/scanner/copier in office (1) cupboards for science equipment (all along back wall of room, a suitable accompaniment to the science work benches the parents had funded last year), reading books (a class of young girls all held up their Arabic Readers and cheered as we walked in their classroom), library books for pupils and for teachers, maths equipment. Careful buying has left approx. $1,000 over and it was agreed that this could be spent on another computer and some new stools for the science lab.   ANERA will arrange this with the school and inform us when it has happened.

We were shown forms (filled in as well) where the teacher records the date, class, lesson title when using the science lab and the computer room; records are kept for use of library books.  So the school is trying to build up a picture of use that will give them some sense of the difference made by DSMT input.   The ministry man was very keen to explain this.  Our impression was that the school would – already had perhaps – integrated use of the new materials into their routine.  We were not sure whether we would be able to extract any more ‘evaluation’ information from them, and certainly not unless we had ANERA’s help.

The future

The headteacher Ms Fadwa is something of a legend in the area to the extent the school is referred to as ‘Fadwa School’.  I wished afterwards we had asked more questions about number of pupils, whether they included Bedouin, how long girls stay on at school, what happens to them when they leave etc.  but the nature of the occasion made this difficult. We did ask about lack of internet and landline phone connections when seeing girls working on computers but not able to make full use of them.  The explanation was that they are in Area C and the Israelis won’t let the Palestinian telecoms providers in. The officials suggested the best thing we might do would be to contact ‘your Tony Blair’ in his Quartet role, as it was believed that his influence had led to a check point being opened recently that had been preventing many teachers from getting to their schools.

On the journey home Amjad, ANERA’s IT expert who has had oversight of the project announced that perhaps ANERA could continue to work with the DSMT to enable us to use our second tranche of money with the school. He was of the opinion that now ANERA knew how to operate with them, it would take much less time  and estimated three months. It wasn’t clear that he had the authority to make this offer.  We said we would discuss with the board.  A new director of the Jerusalem office will be in place by mid-October.

 

4. Jericho Vocational Training Centre (run by East Jerusalem YMCA) 20/9/11

Getting there

Luck was on our side again.  The driver booked by the VTC to pick us up had cancelled (anxiety over possible trouble) so Ismail the director, who has Jerusalem ID, collected us along with a young accountancy teacher who lives in the Old City.

General position of the VTC

The buildings had been painted since our last visit and looked smarter. A lift had been installed for handicapped students, and there were up-to-date computers in the classrooms we visited, though the Computer lab funded by the British Consulate in the late 90s now looked very out of date.

The Palestinian Authority is still providing funding that covers the maintenance of the building and running costs, which has made the centre’s survival a bit more secure than it was, but in comparison to vocational training centres in the UK, resources are limited. There is a national body with oversight of vocational education in the PTs to which the VTC belongs. The VTC is run by the YMCA and receives some funding from them.  As we work through Ycare on this project, our knowledge of VTC funding overall is limited.

The buildings now housing the girls’ boarding facilities (5 km from the VTC) dated from the 1950s, and were also pretty basic, but decorated with posters etc that made them feel quite familiar.  For some girls from large poor families facilities here are better than at home, we were told.  Fifteen girls are currently resident but there is space potentially for 40, and the centre continues to try to work with families outside the immediate neighbourhood to encourage them to allow their daughters to be residents to avoid having to negotiate the checkpoints daily.  This year, two Christian girls from Bethlehem have enrolled and are residential.

The project

The current modular programme has evolved from the long and short courses DSMT supported in 2008-09 and 09-10.  The programme is flexible and offers several levels of participation.   Girls studying full time can take all modules, though some have specific entry requirements eg accountancy students must have finished 12th grade schooling.  Those who complete the in-centre year and pass all modules gain a ‘basic certificate’.   The computer module also carries external certification as the International Computer Driving Licence.  Students who also complete a work placement and pass the final examinations the following spring gain a full Ministry of Education Certificate.   ‘Short course’ students, who cover a wider age group can come for just a single module, and return for others over time if they wish. They receive VTC certificates or the ICDL.

Girls from both last year’s and this year’s DSMT-funded programmes are currently in the system.  New entrants are on-site and we met and interviewed several girls, some on their break from an IT class were all either Googling or on Facebook.  Others were in an accountancy class, and preparing for an assessment next week.

Girls who attended the centre last year are now on their seven-month work placement. An excellent programme of visits was arranged for us in the company of English and civics teacher (and former Dar El Tifl pupil) Samah Shalion.  We met and interviewed girls at the following workplaces:

  • Aqbat Jabar Girls School (an UNRWA school in the refugee camp next to the VTC)
  • The Jericho Municipality
  • Ministry of Health Clinic
  • Ministry of Labour
  • General Delegation of Trades Unions
  • ‘Seeds of Hope’ US-funded kindergarten
  • Insurance broker’s office

It was striking that most of the placements were in public sector offices, and the insurance company turned out to be run by the girl’s grandfather.  All the workplaces had modern technology, and the discourse of modern bureaucracies (payroll, maternity leave, workers’ rights etc) was evident.

From this fascinating whistle-stop tour of Jericho workplaces we concluded:

  • It’s impossible to generalise about the girls; they really came across as individuals with different personalities, outlooks and ambitions.
  • All seemed to be given real tasks to do, and some supervisors were explicit about wanting them to be experiencing real work not simply errands;
  • All the workplaces appeared purposeful and the girls’ supervisors/managers were happy to be interviewed as well.
  • All were using their computer skills, and several using accountancy or general administrative skills.
  • No one mentioned doing graphic design, a pity as this was cited as a favourite part of the programme by some.
  • Plans for the future varied but there were patterns:
  • some want to find a job similar to the work they are doing on placement;
  • three are planning to re-take the tawjihi next summer as private candidates with a view to trying to get into university;
  • one girl has already done so this summer and is now studying business administration part-time through the Al Quds Open University alongside her work placement ;
  • several want to set up their own business eg offering secretarial, computing, admin skills on contract, or in the case of one, as a hairdresser; – one – a former student on a short course – was an education graduate and after studying for the ICDL at the VTC and working as a volunteer at the kindergarten had been taken on as a full-time teacher this term: ‘I love my work’.
  • The ‘man from the ministry of labour’ stressed there is an employment need for people with these skills, and the girls had more chance of getting a job at the moment than university graduates….food for thought.
  • The girls were full of praise for the VTC, recognising how their confidence had grown, and that they could not have believed a year ago they would be doing what they are doing now.  The VTC, said one ‘is the best part of my life so far’.

Reports on individual visits: other organisations

6. Tamer Institute for community education 21/9/11

Nature of organisation

Provides books and community education facilities throughout the PTs especially for school age children.  Founded in mid 80s during the first interfada as somewhere for children to meet safely and productively when much formal education was interrupted. Has established a reputation beyond the region, presents at international conferences and receives funding from a range of reputable sources; won the Astrid Lingstrom award recently.   Impressive, well-informed, professional staff.

Headquarters are in a lovely old building in Ramallah’s old town, specially adapted as offices and a drop-in reading centre, all provided rent-free 2 years ago for 10 years by SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency).  ECONIA, another Swedish organisation also funds them.  They have two other centres in Jerusalem and in Gaza but the rest of their work is ‘grass roots’ through schools and community centres that they supply with books.  The institute also commissions children’s books and engages well-known authors and illustrators to produce them.  The books appeared to be high quality with none of the garish cartoon drawings as in the reading schemes (Arabic and English) we saw at Dar El Tifl and Bardala.

Reason for visit

We have had contact with them in the past and considered funding activities. They are one of the recipients of books from Book Aid International who put in a proposal to us earlier this year.

Useful findings

Links with Dar El Tifl

The Institute runs a community education centre at DTA, who let them occupy it without cost.  This is a community library for children in the locality who attend government schools and is a focal point for youngsters in Jerusalem.

Three facilitators/coordinators are based in Jerusalem and staff the centre in rotation from 2-4pm after school each day (Palestinian schools start at 8am and mostly finish by 2pm).  As there are no public libraries in East Jerusalem[2] and Arabs won’t go to those in West Jerusalem the centre has an important role in encouraging children to read, giving them access to good quality material and providing somewhere for them to go.

Future

Might be appropriate to consider making some contribution to the Tamer Institute’s provision in Jerusalem, given our involvement with Dar El Tifl.

7. Teacher Creativity Centre, Ramallah 20/9/11

Nature of organisation

Set up by teachers in the early 1990s with aim of improving the quality of Palestinian education, at a time when there was unrest in schools and it was customary to blame this on pupils, or political situation.  These founders thought the problem lay mainly in the nature of the teaching which was/is largely transmission method and reliant on pupils memorising rather than understanding.   (We have met this view before eg from Al Muntada and from ECRC and interestingly Ms Dajani complained this visit that the tawjihi examination is still largely memory-oriented, hence perhaps those 90%+ scores we have been a bit suspicious about). The Centre was formally established in 1995 with support from the Canada Fund.  Its head is Rafaat Sabbah[3], a former head teacher, who was recommended to us by the Projects Officer at the Said Foundation (a Palestinian) in the context of enquiries about early years education in the region.  He was in the UK in 1999 on a visit to learn about the development of citizenship in the National Curriculum.

Their work

The focus has been on:

  • Improving classroom management skills for teachers to give them confidence to teach in more interesting ways;
  • Access for pupils to education that includes civic and citizens’ rights and responsibilities (cf VTC)
  • Encouraging parents to get involved with children’s schooling and support their school (cf ECRC)
  • Pressuring the Palestinian Authority to fulfil its obligations to the education sector

They run courses for teachers at the centre and in schools, showing them how they can use community based issues to engage pupils and to teach them civics, community engagement etc.  Showed us impressive video of secondary school children’s work on ‘Pollution at Ramallah Hospital’ in 2008-09, which was then used to pressurise the PA to look into the record of the hospital.

Worked with ECRC on courses for teachers on ‘children’s rights.

Recently proposed to PA a sort of ‘Teach First’ scheme to try to recruit top graduates to be trained by the TCC as teachers and to undertake to work for a min 2 yrs in a government school to act as change agents. Part of problem with quality of education according to TCC is low and uncertain pay for teachers that means don’t recruit best or even middle range graduates.

Working with local education committees to develop parents’ councils in schools.

Next year’s target is to start mobilising their forces to pressure the PA to take responsibility for kindergarten education for ‘older kindergarten range’ ie 3.9-6 yrs  (school start age).  Will be called the ‘2020 Campaign’ with aim of getting state-funded quality kindergarten provision for all the age group by this time.

The future

Well worth going to as provided more insights into the Palestinian education system.

Recommend keeping an eye on, not to fund, but to follow their work, learn from them about the Palestinian system and especially their aim to get early years education onto the PA agenda.  ECRC’s Nabil knew we were going to visit them as in close contact with TCC.

8. British Consulate  21/09/2011

Met with new Projects Officer, Ghada Aruri. New to post, but we learned a couple of useful things:

  • although they have currently no funds that we could apply to, their ‘Bi-lateral projects budget’ would be suitable for the VTC to bid to for replacement computers, if they can get some matched funding;
  • suggested we contact Save the Children who have an office in Beit Hanina if we are looking for a potential partner on the ground.  They get some funding from the EU and have good contacts and are knowledgeable about sources of funding.  Ghada supplied us with a contact in the UK.

The Consulate’s own education focus is funding extra-curricular activities and managing their scholarships programme to fund people to study in the UK.  Her other suggestion of who we might apply to for funding (the Qattan Foundation) we already knew about and had tried. …though this may be no reason for not trying again.

9. British Council 21/09/11

Sandra Hamrouni the head of the office had looked at our website and was very pleased to see that Tamara had been on a British Council Programme. That got us off to a good start.

However, although their focus is ‘English, Education, Arts and Society’ unfortunately they had no sources of funding relevant to us.   It was interesting to learn about their work, and the pressures of operating in Jerusalem, but not directly applicable to us

We discovered they were not currently providing face- to- face English tuition so she had somewhat reluctantly to recommend rival US organisation Amideast for Raneen’s course.

Overall, worth visiting for fact that we have made ourselves known to the organisation and they are aware of what we do.

10.  Faisal Husseini Foundation meeting planned for 21/9/11

Were to have met with Ms Fawda Husseini.  They had been recommended by ANERA as a possible alternative partner organisation. Later it appeared she had never received my email message earlier in the month confirming the time and location she had suggested. They will be happy to meet DSMT representatives when next in Jerusalem.

For interest, their website includes some useful information on the Palestinian education system see www.fhfpal.org

 

Angela Simpson, October 2011

 


[1] DTA: Dar El Tifel Al Arabi Organisation is the overall legal entity that includes school, orphanage and museum; our agreements will be with them.

[2] There had been some libraries documenting Palestinian history in the houses of wealthy families, some of which also served as leisure libraries but these went after 1967

[3] His wife, and her 8 sisters were ‘taken in’ by Dar El Tifl in the 1980s when their widowed mother brought them to Jerusalem from Columbia; one sister now teaches at Harvard

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