Ali Morgan forwards a report on how a modest Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) grant is helping provide school transport in Hebron:
QPSW Relief Grant 2019
Interim report on project to provide school transport in a Palestinian village
In 2019 QPSW approved a Relief grant of £5,000 to Friends of HIRN* to provide school transport for Palestinian children in Area C of the West Bank.
The school transport funded by QPSW has made a real difference to the village and the project has provided benefits over and above the aims. The bus makes three trips every morning and afternoon. Six very young children are transported to the kindergarten, and then 22 girls are taken to the girls’ school (this takes two trips). The driver is from the village, so as well as the educational benefits to the children, the cash is injected directly into the community.
In the past there was a kindergarten in the village, which was highly valued as it helped to prepare the children for elementary school. This early start to education is especially important as the families live in very difficult circumstances, with their makeshift homes subject to periodic demolition by the Israeli government, and scanty electricity and water supplies. The kindergarten was funded by two charities, and unfortunately they were unable to continue their support some two years ago. Parents were delighted when they heard that the Girls High School planned to open a new kindergarten last year. However the road is simply too dangerous for 4 and 5 year olds to walk along, so no children from this village attended in 2018.
The school bus funded by QPSW has meant that six small children have been attending kindergarten in 2019/20 (see the photographs). One of the parents, expressed his gratitude to the project as it allowed his youngest son, to attend kindergarten. He stressed how important kindergarten education is to the whole village.
The headmistress of the school is also very grateful for the transportation project. Reflecting on the experience of previous years, she said that in the past the girls would arrive at school late most days despite leaving their homes early enough to make it on time. The long distance between the village and the school, the difficult terrain and the lack of transport led to these delays. She was delighted that since the introduction of the school bus the girls had arrived on time each morning. This gives them the chance to attend and participate in the daily morning activities.
One of the girls, who is in the 4th grade and uses the bus each day expressed her relief that a bus was now provided to allow her and the other 21 girls to get to school every day. She particularly mentioned that she is happy that she won’t be forced to walk to school during the rainy season as she did last year. “I would arrive at school soaking wet from the rain. I remember that I was ashamed to enter the classroom as my clothes would be muddy.” Ann Davison (of Gloucestershire Area Meeting), who served with EAPPI in this area of the West Bank, confirms that winter rain can be very prolonged and heavy, and the ground turns into a quagmire. Shoes stick in the wet clay and it becomes very difficult to walk as each foot is weighed down with mud.
The bus driver
The driver is a local resident of the village. He had been unemployed, as he did not have a permit to work in Israel, and paid work in the local area is almost non-existent. When he heard that a transportation project might be implemented, he collected funds from friends and family, so that he could buy a vehicle for this project. (The QPSW funding provides the fuel, maintenance and the driver’s salary). He is very relieved to have a steady source of income, which enables him to continue to live in the community and plan for his future.
The project is helping to sustain the existence of the village in several ways:
- 22 girls are benefiting from the project by being able to attend the girls school.
- The girls have been able to attend school regularly, on time and safely.
- Ensuring that the girls of the village continue their education, with the multiple benefits that brings to them as individuals and to the village as a whole.
- The project has exceeded its aims by also enabling 6 pre-school children to attend kindergarten.
- Enabling the youngest children to attend kindergarten, gives them a much better start to their education
- Providing a direct injection of cash into the local economy, through local employment.
- Enabling the driver to continue to live in the village – the only alternative would have been to migrate to a city
- Parents are reassured about their choice of staying in the village, despite all the attendant hardships, if they feel that their children will receive the education that is so highly prized in the community. It can therefore help to prevent the gradual erosion of population in the village, which might otherwise lead to the loss of even more land to illegal Israeli settlers.
Update May 2019: The Covid 19 pandemic has affected Palestine as well just like everywhere else. All schools across the West Bank have been closed during the pandemic but the QPSW funded transport will continue to benefit the village when schools reopen (this is expected to be in August)
The first cases of Covid 19 were in Bethlehem in March and the Palestinian Authority implemented control measures from March. However, the P.A. only has jurisdiction over Area A (18%) of the West Bank, (cities like Bethlehem and Ramallah). The Israeli occupying forces control the remaining 88% of the West Bank including all the villages in Area C, so the P.A. is unable to provide any services or relief in these areas. And to make matters worse the Israeli administration has increased demolitions and other human rights abuses against the Palestinian communities in Area C, even demolishing health clinics. This is the area that Israel has announced it plans to annex.
So HIRN has been working hard to support the Palestinians in Area C, providing COVID 19 kits with disinfectant and Personal Protective Equipment, as well as essential supplies of food and water.
The QPSW Relief Grant application period is now open. We stated in our first application that we would wish to apply for funding for three years, so hope that we will secure further funding for this project.
If Friends would like to donate to the work of HIRN, please do so via this web-link
* HIRN = Hebron International Resources Network