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Back to stories from the field Story Time Ignites Imaginations in Gaza Preschools

Story Time Ignites Imaginations in Gaza Preschools

For almost 70 years, Palestine has been at the epicenter of war and instability. The protracted conflict has severely damaged the land, making it a country built on bombs and bloodshed. The ongoing humanitarian crisis was exacerbated by the war in 2014 that left much of the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure, including its educational facilities, destroyed. Moreover, due to constant threat of violence, Gaza has faced tremendous difficulty in rebuilding its infrastructure, particularly on the educational front. Preschools are in dire need of support, struggling to provide basic play equipment, learning materials and educational resources. Caught in a constant struggle for basic survival and lacking the social and emotional anchor that regular schooling provides, the children of Gaza are constantly battling a sense of vulnerability and isolation. To make matters more difficult, parents and teachers have limited knowledge of the unique care required to meet social-emotional and developmental needs of children growing up in such tense environments as Palestinian children do.

To foster a semblance of normalcy, Dubai Cares has been working with ANERA to normalize the learning and school-going process by re-introducing reading, which is an integral part of every childhood. To encourage children to listen to as well as read stories, Dubai Cares funded a preschool teacher training session on teaching children how to read. 

Tahani Daloul, a preschool teacher in Gaza said, “Children love reading as much as trees and flowers love sunlight”. Tahani is a participant in a new initiative set to infuse classrooms with storytelling, which is a crucial part of early childhood development. Storytelling helps to develop cognitive, emotional and social skills for children, especially in the earliest stages of life. Through visualizing rich imagery and understanding narrative, children can develop their cognitive capacities in a fun, interactive way. “These skills are beneficial for language and literacy development as well,” added Tahani.

Another teacher, Saud El Mobasher, expresses the importance of reading for children. In one classroom, she tells an animated story on her knees, surrounded by children. She uses voice inflection to act out different characters as they maneuver through scenes. The children are transfixed by the story, falling in love with the colorful characters. Suad says, “I’ve acquired these techniques through teacher training. Storytelling presents a chance to implant positive habits and values.” 

Suzana, a little school girl walks home through the narrow alleys of Al Shati refugee camp as she proudly shows off her new reading bag that consists of coloring books, colored pencils and storybooks to share with her family. Her mother, Heba, gathers around the other children to hear a story about a girl named Karma, who lives in a refugee camp like they do.

Heba says, “When parents read to their kids, they will grow up to value reading as well. It also makes us feel more connected to our children as we bond through reading.” Each night while Heba tidies up her kitchen, she recites the stories in her head, in preparation for more storytelling time with her kids. She adds, “Kids may not remember all of the stories, but they will always carry a part of each story with them.”

Dubai Cares' program also ensured that reading activities are provided to children in an enriched learning environment. Al Shati preschool underwent major renovation through this program. Abeer Salha, teacher at the preschool said, “The old classrooms were windowless, dark and smelly, with cracked walls, decayed ceiling with water leakage and old school toilets. The full-scale school renovations have made a marked difference and have created child friendly spaces that are conducive to learning." Now children have brand new classrooms, along with a playground, new bathrooms and kitchen space to make healthy meals. Abeer added, “I am thrilled to help ignite our children’s imaginations through storytelling, in newly renovated preschools. It’s a healthy start for children of Gaza to return to a normal life”.