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Cash-for-work projects in Gaza – part three

West Bank and Gaza, May 3, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    William Baron/Mercy Corps  </span>
    An after-school study session at the Beit El Kheir center, sponsored by Mercy Corps' cash-for-work program. Photo: William Baron/Mercy Corps

My last visit of the day is to a neighborhood after-school program, where Mercy Corps pays unemployed graduates to work in after-school centres, supporting the learning of school children from particularly vulnerable households that are performing most poorly at school.

At the Beit El Kheir center, I find myself sitting round a table with five 7-year olds, their math exercise books in front of them.

“Do you like coming here?”, I ask them, remembering my own aversion to any extra-curricular work when I was younger.

“Yes,” they chorus in response to the Arabic translation. And why do you like coming here? I ask. There is a pause, before the smallest little girl replies quietly, “because we want to learn”.

Their favorite subject, they say, is English (apart from little Rita who says Arabic is the best as it is easy!), but when I ask why they want to learn English they are temporarily overcome with shyness, so instead I ask Ramzi — their teacher employed through the cash-for-work program — why he thinks its important children in Gaza learn English.

Without a moment's hesitation, and speaking in English perhaps to make sure nothing is lost, he replies: “So we can tell the outside world about our situation here.”

And after two days here I’m inclined to agree, that above all else this is perhaps the most important challenge for Gaza in securing its future.