On a late afternoon in May at the Razi Primary School in Dura, school boys are engaged in a traditional after-school game of soccer. But inside the school, something new is going on. Parents and teachers have gathered together at the recently launched Parents Information and Training Center to identify critical school-related issues and jointly develop action plans and find solutions.
Formed late last year, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) gave many concerned Palestinian parents their first opportunity to sit with teachers and headmasters and take an active role in their children’s education.
“The association has really made a lot of progress in a short time. In the beginning they all quarreled with each other. Now everyone is relaxed, speaks freely and respects one another,” observes Majed Ehshaiesh, Mercy Corps’ Community Mobilization Officer in Dura District. “They have learned the value of working together, and are focused on solving problems.”
Mercy Corps, with funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), launched nine Parent-Teacher Associations in schools located throughout Dura District. The objective of the associations is to promote a strong link between schools and communities and provide an avenue for more community involvement in educational activities. The Parent-Teacher Associations will also provide a forum for community members to voice concerns about school issues and foster positive change.
In addition to facilitating the formation of nine PTAs, Mercy Corps has developed a Parents Information and Training Center. The center is located at the Razi School and is open to all the members of the nine PTAs. It serves as a meeting space, training facility and a resource center, and is fully equipped with computers and presentation facilities. Training courses and workshops are offered on topics geared to creating and empowering parents and parent-teacher associations with a focus on leadership skills, participation, teamwork, creativity, consensus-building, and action.
The initial impact of several of the PTAs can already be measured,” says Majed Ehshaiesh. “Many have identified issues such as the need for Headmasters to include both parents and teachers in the decision making process and the need for teachers to modify their behavior to the students…but they have gone beyond just identifying problems and actually put forward one-year plans and recommendations to start to change things for the better.”
Mr. Fahmi is a father of seven children, four who are currently enrolled in schools in Dura. He is also an active member of the PTA. For a long time Mr. Fahmi has thought that students should receive some form of sex education in school. He went as far as to research how the subject is taught in other Arab countries and acquired sample textbooks and materials from Jordan. Now he is busy putting together a presentation on the issue to share with the PTA.
“It may be difficult to gather support for my proposal, but at least now I have an organized group of interested parents and teachers I can discuss my ideas with,” says Mr. Fahmi. “Many people here are afraid of anything new, but we must begin.”