Being a child in Palestine carries with it a complex and difficult history. The worsening political situation under the Israeli occupation means there is restricted freedom of movement, people face daily harassment, confrontation with soldiers, and potentially life-threatening situations. In Area C specifically, this has created a strong need for a program to support and complement academic school education with creative activities, focusing on self–reliance, which is an important prerequisite for resilience.
The outreach program in Ghirass was started in 2010 and was supported by the German Organization for International Development, (GIZ) jointly with the Palestinian Ministry of Education. It is a program with a modern approach to providing educational and psychosocial services to the Palestinian population in marginalized locations in the Bethlehem district who might not otherwise have access to those services. Teacher’s training took place from 2010-2016 with about 600 teachers and social workers benefiting from training in the treatment of learning difficulties and the prevention of underachievement problems. 3286 school children and 6834 kindergarten-age children gained from the program.
In 2017 the Ghirass Cultural Center started a new approach, “Essence of Learning” (EoL), which was launched in primary schools and kindergartens within the framework of the Outreach Program in cooperation with Caritas Switzerland and the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The Essence of Learning is a holistic approach that focuses on a child-centered learning process while emphasizing emergency learning to address the specific needs of children who have grown up in a difficult context in the midst of crises. It connects educational, psychological, and social components and adapts to the various stages of development.
Ghirass started to apply the new EoL approach in villages and refugee camps in the Bethlehem district. Teacher training took place from 2017-2021 with approximately 121 teachers and social workers receiving training through the Essence of Learning approach. 1182 school children and 2708 kindergarten-age children benefited from the program.