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No Room for a Counselor’s Room

No Room for a Counselor's Room

Al-Hewar School for Alternative Learning- Art and Creativity is an Arab elementary school in Haifa facing numerous problems. The cause of these problems is shortage of spaces. This is incompatible with the school’s vision, which is to be a school for art and creativity, the first its kind for Arabs in Haifa.

The school is overcrowded, which is causing violence between students. The school is missing essential rooms and facilities such as a library, gym, laboratory, computer room, a school counselor’s room, a physical education hall, and an adequate teacher’s lounge. Al-Hewar school has 293 students and only 2 bathrooms. The school has no emergency exit that is compatible the Israeli Ministry of Education’s standards.

With the intention of adding a classroom a few years back, the municipality placed a trailer on the schoolyard, making the schoolyard ever more tight and crowded. The location of the school also poses a problem: traffic caused by shortage of parking spaces disrupts classes. This also makes the school’s location unsafe for young children who walk to their nearby homes.

The current head of al-Hewar Parents Committee, Professor Mogher Khamaisi, stated in a position paper “The municipality’s procrastination comes at the expense of children and their parents. We refuse to start a new school year with the current conditions… It is inconceivable that a school for Art and Creativity does not have a single art room; teachers are teaching art classes in hallways and staff. We will have to go to court unless the municipality of Haifa attends to our demands.”

In 2013, concerned parents from the school first met with the Mayor of Haifa in order to bring his attention to the situation and request immediate solution. The parents then appointed Mossawa Center to follow the case, who in turn sent letters to officials demanding action. These letters did not accomplish anything other than receiving empty promises without obligation or commitment to follow through.

This is why al-Hewar School Parents Committee, the Social Development Committee, the Organization for Distributive Justice, and the Haifa University Law Clinic-in cooperation with Mossawa Center- are now working hand in hand to find a solution. These organizations sent another letter to the mayor of Haifa and the Israeli Ministry of Education; where they asked both parties to abide the laws and conditions set by the Ministry of Education itself, as al-Hewar school does not enjoy the services it rightfully deserves.

The letter also warned that failing to attend to al-Hewar school’s needs would result in legal action against the neglectful parties.

Samar Qudha, a lawyer from the University of Haifa Legal Clinic, has sent numerous letters over the past few months to the Mayor of Haifa and the Haifa district executive in the Israeli Ministry of Education. In the letters, Qudha requested a solution with its own work plan, deadlines, and budget.

So far, efforts have not been successful; official circles are still neglecting the Arab students of al-Hewar school and are not attending to this pressing matter.

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About the SDC

A Busy Week

The Social Development Committee’s “Cyberbullying” project entered its fourth year of activities and lectures on the dangers of the internet and effects of cyberbullying. This year, and with the upcoming “Safe Internet Surfing Week”, announced by the Israeli Ministry of Education to take place February 4-9, the SDC had a busy week.

Eli Badran, the SDC’s media specialist, gave a lecture last Sunday. The lecture discussed whether privacy on the web actually exists, including the internet’s dangers and safe use. The listeners are youth from the local Abbas Center.

Dr. Amer Jaraysi, a clinical psychologist, met with Haifa’s counselors and education coordinators from Arab schools to talk about two things: the first was the counselors’ challenges and accomplishments when conducting the classroom activities the SDC suggested in its booklet. The second was a dialogue and brainstorm about potential activities during the upcoming “Safe Internet Surfing Week”. 

Six hundred and fifty students attended the “DangerNet” play, which aims to counteract the dangers of the Internet. The scenario was written by Nazem Shreidi from al-Siraj Theatre and relied on materials and stories the SDC gathered. Shreidi worked hand in hand with Badran and Dr. Jaraysi in creating the play, as he relied on their knowledge and expertise in the field to create a play that sends meaningful message to youth.

Because of its endeavors in the matter for four years, the SDC has become a center for consultancy on cyberbullying and safe internet youth for parents and educators.      

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Bringing Some Warmth to Our Elderly

As a grassroots organization, the SDC listens to the community and its needs. A pressing need we found was that Haifa’s Arab seniors are not receiving adequate monthly income from Social Security to meet their needs and expenses; and they are no longer receiving basic supplies for them to enjoy an adequate living standard. The SDC staff members along with students from the the Fellowship of Christian Students in Haifa distributed ninety blankets and heaters to seniors in Haifa. The SDC distributed to people they have been working with for years and who are in financial struggle. The SDC also reached out to religious institutions and charitable organizations who in turn gave names and addresses of people in need.

Most of the recipients were female senior citizens, who live alone and solely off social security. Poor families and single women who live off minimum wage also received heaters and blankets. They all appreciated the gifts and thoughtfulness. We hope to continue meeting the community’s needs and be a listening ear to those who have no one to turn to.

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The Young Orator

“The Young Orator” is a new project launched by the Social Development Committee in cooperation with the Stella Maris Rotary Club. Students from fifth to tenth grade will compete in a public speaking competition in modern standard Arabic. The reason behind using modern standard Arabic instead of the more familiar local Arabic slang- that varies according to region- is to lessen students’ fear of the Arabic language. Arab students despise Arabic classes and fear their mother tongue, and with the advancement of technology and social media, Arabic has become heavy on those who speak it- youth.

Arabic language coordinators from all of Haifa’s Arab schools met on February 5 2018 where the SDC and Rotary Club first pitched the idea to them. Two weeks later, on February 19, the coordinators met again, this time with public speech specialist, Dr. Saleh Abboud.

Dr. Abboud discussed the art of public speaking in order to guide the coordinators in choosing the best orator among their students. Dr. Abboud started by defining oration, saying it is a way to meet face to face with the public to convince them of a certain idea through persuasion and charm. Dr. Abboud presented the historic importance of oration in Arab civilization and broke down its components, and he presented the standards set for a good orator in terms of personality and body language.

The project will be held over the next four months and end in May 2018, where professional judges will evaluate the final contestants who won the internal competitions in their own school.