South Hebron Hills, Wed 18.8.10, Morning

Mira B., Judy A., Mohamed (driver and translator)


Khashem-Al-Daraj Preschool/Kindergarten

 translation: Judy A.

We picked up Eid at Um-Al-Hir and continued on to Khashem-Al-Daraj.  The visit to the preschool/kindergarten was arranged in advance with Huda (with the assistance of Eid).  Huda came from her house and opened the locked school.  The school is located in the eastern part of the Hebron Mountains, on the border of the Judean desert, and is not serviced by any of the authorities (Israel or the Palestinian Authority). 

School groundsSurrounded by a link fence.  The play equipment has been vandalized and the fence gate broken. There is no foliage - the water lines don't reach the school, or most of the village, even though the water pipe ends right in front of the school.

School: As we already saw (and photographed) in our previous visit, the situation is heart rending: a small room with two small windows, a corrugated tin roof, and exposed white-washed concrete walls that also serve as an improvised writing surfaces in addition to an old small chalk board.  There are few decorations on the walls - most torn - and a pile of old toys in a corner.  An open shelving unit is piled high with booklets (that are considered as books here), puzzles most of which seemed for ages younger than 4½, a couple of bottles of paint, and other bits and pieces of school supplies.  A gas stove-top and gas balloon stand in one of the corners.  The teacher's table is located opposite the door to the school.  Plastic chairs for the children are stacked against a wall.  5 plastic tables are available for use by the students.  The metal door to the school is unpainted and its window broken.

Conversation with Huda (translated by Mohamed and Eid)

Number of children and ages:
30 children between the ages of 4½ to 5½ attend the preschool/kindergarten.  The PA pays the salaries for elementary and high school teachers but not the salaries of preschool/kindergarten teachers (is this true in general or just for village preschools or this school in particular?) and Israel certainly does not (C territory).

The school was established 4 years ago through a donation from UNRWA.  The money that was given to build the school was not enough and therefore, the school lacks an adequate roof.  It only has a corrugated tin roof.  There are no toilet facilities even though a room for the toilet has been built outside.

 Huda, who graduated from high school and a teacher seminary, lives in the village (as a result of marriage).  She has taken upon herself the responsibility of the school after its previous teachers left when UNRWA no longer paid their salaries.  UNRWA was supposed to pay Huda a salary (NIS500/month), but in fact, has not paid her salary for some time and when she is paid,  the payment is months late.  Huda continues to teach even when not paid because of the importance she attributes to preparing the children for first grade. 

Daily schedule and administration:
Huda arranges the 5 tables (each large enough to accommodate 4 children) in the center of the room and 6 children are crowded around each table.  Huda attempts to separate the children by age (preschoolers versus the kindergarteners).  The older children are taught to read and write and a little math as preparation for first grade.  Huda is the only adult in the school.  The children spend 4-5 hours in the school.  Parents or older siblings bring the children to school in the morning.  The children are happy to come.  In order to prepare tea for the children, Huda takes the gas balloon outside and she sometimes brings bake goods from home.

The older children from the village have vandalized the school.  They have destroyed the playground equipment, broken the window of the school door, broken part of the tin roof in order to enter the school to steal toys.  Because of the vandalism, the gas balloon is kept locked in the school.

Urgent needs:

  • 1. Building: a permanent roof, a toilet for the lavatory, raise the floor of the school so that winter rains don't flood it.
  • 2. Fix and paint the door.
  • 3. Contact people in education, particularly preschool/kindergarten teachers
  • 4. Metal storage shelving units with doors that can be closed and locked, both to keep out the dust and prevent vandalism.
  • 5. Books and toys and a board to hang up the artwork of the children.
  • 6. Our additions: to paint the internal walls of the school - to make it a bit more cheerful.

In the hour that we spoke, Mohamed the contractor arrived.   Mohamed and Eid began to bargain about the cost of putting on a new roof, completing the bathroom, and raising the floor. We explained that we don't have funds but that it is our intention to apply to a British agency that funds projects like this as suggested by Ehud from the Village Group.  Because, really, it is almost impossible to function under the current conditions.

In the meantime, Tamar Golan (one of us) has already offered an impressive donation, and we have started to prepare an application to the British agency.  The application, of course, will be done in the name of the Southern branch of MachsomWatch (we will need the agreement and help in the financial aspects of the application).