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The School in 2009 - 2010

Friday 18 September 2009, by Anwar Dawood

Looking back on the previous year

June 30 brought the conclusion of the 2008 – 2009 school year – a year which, though successful for the school, was not at all easy. It was difficult for a number of reasons. One of the hardest situations during the school’s 25 year history was the December – January war / military operation in Gaza. The emotional impact on the students was severe. Some of the Palestinian students have relatives in Gaza and some of the Jewish children have relatives in the Israeli army or who live close to the border (and thus were within range of Palestinian rocket fire). During this war we realized that the conflict between our peoples is deeper than we had thought and the gap is wider than can be bridged during the near future. Our hope is that the both sides will realize that there is no military solution to this conflict, and that our way (of non-violent encounter and dialogue) is the way for the future.

The same year that brought the Gaza war brought a hard-line right-wing-led coalition to power in Israel, and the global economic downturn, which continues to severely affect us. In spite of all these difficulties, the school managed to survive, take innovative new directions, retain the loyalty of its students, increase its attractiveness to parents, and develop its curricula. For our successes we have many people to thank: our excellent teaching staff; our dedicated students; their parents, who overcame the polarizing influences of the Gaza war and the poisonous political climate; the binational village of Wahat al-Salam that provided a sound community base; philanthropic foundations and our network of friends associations; and the many generous persons who continued to provide moral and financial support during a year that was difficult for everyone, everywhere.

Looking forward to 2009 - 2010

On September 1, 2009 the school opened its doors to 55 new children in the primary school and about 20 new children in the preschool. The first day of school is always a day in which there is both awareness of challenges ahead, and a strong determination to meet them and succeed. This enthusiasm is shared by students, teachers and parents alike. One source of our optimism this year is the new syllabus that we shaped crafted during all the 2008-2009 school year and in the summer break. The syllabus (which still requires some fleshing-out) covers the key subjects of language instruction and civic and environmental studies.

Some of the difficulties from 2008 – 2009 will continue to haunt us in the current school year. We do not yet know how severely the economic downturn will continue to affect the school, but so far the signs of recovery are not beginning to show.

One internal difficulty we have had to face is the turnover in faculty. It is always difficult to find, train and maintain teachers who are able to meet the unique challenges of a bilingual, binational and multicultural environment combined the school’s financial constraints. This year we lost some of our veteran teachers, in completion of a process that started when the school changed its status to that of a Recognized, Non-Official school. We engaged with parents in the selection of new teachers, and these are now learning, under the tutelage of veteran teachers, the exciting challenge of teaching in a bilingual and multi-cultural school.

(Above: September 1 - first day of school)

The school today

Pupils

The following table shows the expansion of the pupil numbers during the last 3 years.

School Year 2009-10 2008-9 2007-8
1st - 6th 210 170 127
Kindergarten 28 29 29
Pre-school 18 22 22
Total 256 220 187

Among the new first graders, there is an equal number of Arab and Jewish students. The rest of the school too has almost the same number of Arab and Jewish student. Disparities do exist still in the early education division. In the Kindergarten (age 4 - 6), about one third of the students are Jewish (a big step towards equality, since in recent years, almost all of the students have been Arab). In the range between 3 months and 3 years, we have only one Arab child among 19 Jews. This is due to the relative expense of education for this age group (and the higher earning power prevalent in Jewish society). We were also obliged to hike fees by 20% this year.

Catchment area: Children continue to arrive to the school from a radius range of 50 km (30 miles). This is despite a selection process that favours children who live closer to WAS-NS (in order to keep transportation costs down).

School time framework

The school continues to work 5 days a week between 08:00 -15:10. However, the pre-kindergarten level will work for 6 days: Sunday-Thursday 07:00 – 16:00 and Friday 07:00-13:00.

Content

Binational, multicultural School

As a binational, multicultural school our school will continue to maintain its joint framework for Jews and Arabs of various backgrounds and will commemorate their national events (see attached events calendar). In our activities, we will engage also parents, in addition to the students. Events important to the life of the school are the commemoration of the events of October 2000 and the Kfar Kassem massacre, Democracy Week (associated with the assassination of Y. Rabin), Israel’s Independence Day, Palestinian Nakba Day, Land Day, Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Holocaust Day. These events will be commemorated with activities in the classroom and school assemblies.

Bilingual School

The school, in accordance with the curriculum that it is developing, adopts a critical pedagogic approach to language studies. According to this approach, language studies, like all other subjects, will be conducted as much as possible together (in the past, language studies were conducted according to the mother tongue and second language divisions of the students). Language studies will be in mixed (Arab-Hebrew speaking) groups for a part of the time and other subjects will be conducted in mixed national groups.

Multi-religious school

We will mark one multi-religious holiday in which we will relate to Islam, Christianity and Judaism with a main event to which parents and guests will be invited. Other festivals will be marked in the classrooms.

Healthy School

The healthy school program will be expressed by opening the school day at 08:00 with 10 minutes exercise before going into the classrooms. The students will bring their breakfast and will healthy nutrition and other related topics.

Environmentally Friendly School

The school was accepted in the 2008-2009 school year to the Green School program. Green Schools are those that care for the environment, adopt recycling measures and conserve resources. The school will continue with this direction not only through teaching classes in environmental studies and recycling, but also by emphasizing the environment in an interdisciplinary way, such as by using it as a topic in language instruction and integrating it in science classes, nature studies and agriculture studies.

Computers

The school will continue with one lesson per week for each class. In addition, the school wishes to open another computer centre in order to integrate computer studies in other subjects like language instruction, mathematics and science studies.

Science studies

The school will continue to develop science studies. New teachers will be included. Science studies will include both the programs included in the curricula of the Education Ministry and enrichment studies determined by the staff.

Summer Camps

The school will organize summer camps for West Bank Palestinian children from the area of Nablus and Tulkarm – especially the Tulkarm, Nur Shams and Balata refugee camps, with the support of the Bruno Hussar Foundation. Young guides from WAS-NS will participate in this sensitive program, together with some of their parents.

Relations with the state

Ministry of Education

The Education Ministry’s “core curriculum” has shrunk again this year and now includes 15 weekly hours at the 1st grade and 18 weekly hours at the 6th. We need to add to 5 weekly hours for the 2nd language. The Ministry has told us that we will be paid for 180 weekly hours at the school, although, in our estimate this should be more. There are various other allocations beyond study hours, for which we should be eligible, such as support for administrative and janitorial staff and renovations. The Ministry claims that these are the responsibility of the Regional Council, and the Council says that this is not true.

Early childhood education

After three years of hard work we managed to achieve state recognition for the Kindergarten. However, this has not yet resulted in financial support. Because the Kindergarten has not received support till now, this has resulted in a serious deficit. The Ministry continues to use delaying tactics and now declares that it is “too late” to receive the allocation for the 2008 – 2009 school year. We hope that the problem will be resolved soon.

Transportation

Some 220 pupils and teachers will be transported to the school and pre-school levels. Whereas previously the Education Ministry subsidized transportation costs for Recognized Non-Official schools like ours, it now claims that it is obliged to do so only for religious schools. We dispute this arbitrary claim and continue to struggle to obtain the Ministry’s funding. The Regional Council, meanwhile, has declared that it is willing to support the school with transportation as it does other schools. Till today, this statement of support has not borne results.

Curricula

This is the second year that we are advancing with the program to develop curricula at the school. A draft of the curricula was prepared in 2008. We have undergone a thorough discussion with parents. About half the parents took part in discussion and submitted positive feedback. During the year, the staff worked on curricula for language and culture. And thus we have a syllabus for First Grade, and a syllabus for the other grades is well on the way.

The school will continue to work with the didactic team in order to continue developing curricula and will continue in this direction to receive consultation from Dr. Ora Mor from Haifa University to advance curricula and implementation.


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