Dubai: For a country built on bombs and bloodshed, children are the first to suffer, especially their right to life and education. Palestine has been at the epicentre of war and instability for almost 70 years. The protracted conflict has severely damaged the land, displaced people, and destroyed lives.
In 2014, the ongoing humanitarian crisis was exacerbated by the war that left much of the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure, including its educational facilities, destroyed. Gaza has faced tremendous difficulty in rebuilding its infrastructure, particularly schools due to the constant threat of violence.
The children of Gaza are always battling a sense of vulnerability and isolation. They also lack the social and emotional anchor that regular schooling provides. To make matters worse, parents and teachers have limited knowledge of the developmental needs of children growing up in such tense environments as Palestinian children do.
To help the children, philanthropic organisation Dubai Cares took the lead in normalising the learning and school-going process by reintroducing an integral part of every childhood — reading stories. Dubai Cares funded a preschool teacher training session on teaching children to read and encourage them to read regularly.
Maisoun Abedmoeti, a teacher who participated in the session, said it motivated her to look beyond their circumstance in Gaza.
“It has fuelled me with positive energy. Life in Gaza has made us lose that sense of inner optimism and the training helped me dig deep inside myself and restore it,” Abedmoeti said.
Reading is a powerful tool that helps children overcome their fears due to war, Abedmoeti said based on the experience of her five children during the 2014 Gaza war. She found that their love of reading and their connection to the stories they read have continued over the months, even after the conflict ended.
Hanadi Aziz, a mother of two, agreed with Abedmoeti. She has seen how reading has helped expand her five-year-old daughter’s vocabulary.
“I am sometimes surprised by the words she uses and how she can name things so clearly and correctly,” Aziz said.
Her daughter, Jomana, becomes more excited when they read a story that she had listened to in her school’s reading session.
“I see clearly how important it is to read with them at home and also to encourage our children to read to us,” she said, adding she uses the stories to convey good habits, too.
“I am so pleased. What’s a better gift than books to help my children learn.”
Dubai Cares has focused its efforts in Palestine on promoting literacy and ensuring that children have access to books and educational resources. In 2014, Dubai Cares launched the “Rebuild Palestine. Start with Education” initiative. The Dh11-million programme supports access to education and mitigates the psycho-social effects of armed conflict on the student population in Gaza.
As part of this initiative, Dubai Cares also organised a community campaign in the UAE that aimed to supply the children of Gaza with the school supplies the children need to continue their education. Dubai Cares also provided a total of 100,800 “My Arabic Library” books to over 56,000 children in camp schools in the West Bank.
Dubai Cares also gifted 3,500 children with colourful bags filled with story books, colouring books, crayons and some materials for parents and teachers containing valuable tips on how to maximise those materials.