Supporters and volunteers have been helping village schools in Burin and Madama in the West Bank since 2010. More recently the vulnerable boys’ school in Urif has also received our support. For a summary of our earlier projects, please click here.
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2023
With the ongoing war in Gaza and devastating repercussions in the West Bank, the OHT has been unable to organise as many grants as previously. The usual visit of some trustees during the olive harvest had to be cancelled as it was scheduled just one week after the October 7th attacks. Getting funds to the appropriate recipients has been a major problem. However we are very pleased that students from Urif Boys’ School have benefited from the tablets recently funded by the OHT and instead of being stuck at home are able to work remotely with others in the village hall while all schools are closed. Here they are – proud as punch. The OHT is hoping to fund more of the same for other schools – depending on money transfers.
A further grant was agreed between trustees, this time for Madama Boys’ School – which was the very first recipient from the nascent OHT many years ago. This time £1700 was allocated to fund three classroom monitors and cladding for the fence between the playground and the road. This will ensure greater protection and privacy for the students during break.
A meeting of trustees was held in early June over zoom and new grants were agreed upon. £1200 will be sent to Burin Agricultural College for essential repairs following an electric storm. They had some excess funds from their previous grant for egg-laying hens: it was agreed that this could be used to buy an incubator and three footballs.
£800 was allocated to Bruquin to repair, repaint and upgrade existing facilities in their children’s playground which is located between the boys’ and girls’ schools. They are keen to enlarge their agricultural garden which is inside the area and some money will be used for seedlings.
An ambitious new project for Burin is making progress, namely a playground near the Agricultural College with an area for parents. The OHT will donate £2000 towards this if it is finalised.
After a hiatus caused by the pandemic and Israel’s entry restrictions, OHT visits resumed this year, in spring by our deputy-chair and during the harvest by two trustees who were part of the Protective Presence team. This has enabled closer dialogue with headteachers and an appreciation of the spiralling violence on the ground.
The grant of £5100 to Madama Girls School went through smoothly resulting in 30 freshly painted classrooms and a leakproof roof, much appreciated by Nawal the headmistress who efficiently masterminded the works. Another grant was awarded to what has now become Burin Agricultural College, in this case nearly £1500 to buy 150 egg-laying hens. £440 was given to Tell Girls’ School to buy a special printer, and a further £580 awarded to Bruqin playground to upgrade and repair equipment (see Oct 2020 below).
At the last meeting of the year on November 8th, two appeals were discussed and agreed upon: the first to support a postgraduate engineering student, Dalia Faraj from February 2023 for completing her Masters in Tarragona, Spain, and the second, The Crocheted Zoo, as our Christmas appeal. The Crocheted Zoo is inspired by a wonderful donation of 70 immaculately crocheted toy animals that were distributed to pupils at Burin Infants’ School during the harvest. Huge delight, as seen in the photo!
Again this year trustees have been unable to visit the West Bank due to entry restrictions to Israel – which is the only access route into the Occupied Territories. However we have enjoyed zoom discussions with some of the teachers and farmers, so giving us a clearer picture of the reality on the ground. After making huge progress with its agricultural facilities, Burin Community School is now on track to becoming an Agricultural College, a first in the northern part of the West Bank. Apart from previous OHT contributions to greenhouses, rabbits and chickens, the latest grant will enable the school to house sheep – once the school is granted permission to build a shed. See our short video re the stumbling blocks. Just over £1000 was awarded for buying two sheep and £1200 for cladding to the sheep pen.
At the latest OHT trustees’ meeting on November 3rd, 2021, it was agreed to fund three more sheep to add to the existing two (paid for by the village) and to fund cladding on the chicken coops for the cold winter. Together these grants totalled about £2200.
Other grants discussed concerned infrastructure: repainting very dilapidated classrooms and corridors in the old wing of Urif Boys School and, similarly, giving a much needed facelift to classrooms at Madama Girls’ School. It was finally agreed to give Urif school their requested £4800 to fund full refurbishment (repairs & painting) of 10 classrooms, corridors and stairs in the old wing. The grant for Madama, still to be fully confirmed, will be for repainting 15 classrooms.
Predictably this year has been slower due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our trustees have been unable to visit the West Bank so newly forged links with schools have to wait. Please see News for more information on pending projects with our existing contacts.
Bruqin School playground – renovation of the playground with a grant of about £1900 was finally completed in early summer – letting loose a stream of schoolchildren onto swings, slides, springs, tunnels and other material. These photos, taken by the local coordinator, give an idea of the huge enjoyment this project has given. NB some were taken before renovation was completed so ignore areas of chipped paint!
Urif Secondary school – the badly leaking roof (below) was repaired in early 2020 with a grant of £4000 from the OHT. This also included the local purchase of two lap-tops for teachers.
Burin Community School‘s agricultural project which we first glimpsed in 2018 (read about its beginnings here) has expanded massively, partly thanks to OHT funds. We financed two additional polytunnels which are up and running, filled with rocket, parsley, chilli peppers and lettuce (below).
Madama Girls School The sturdy, custom-made podium (below) that we funded last year was in place in the playground, enhanced by an astro-turf cover! One of our trustees gives an idea of the scale. Money left over from this grant was used to buy art materials at a local shop, so helping the Palestinian economy and encouraging creativity.
Urif Boys School This isolated school has suffered repeated attacks from settlers from Yitzhar as it was built high above the village, next to an access road and not far from the settlement. We know and respect the headmaster, Ayed Al-Qot, from his previous post at Madama Boys School, and want to help as much as we can to make conditions more acceptable.
Our decision to fund a protective wall to ensure a safer environment for the 200 students was backed by two other NGOs which provided a gate and canopy. The result should hopefully stem the appalling violence.
After our successful meeting in 2017 and initial small donation, Madama Girls’ School benefited from more OHT funds in 2018. Thanks to her immaculate paperwork, the headmistress, Nawal Mahmoud Rabay’a, was given £1250 to build a platform in the school playground for dance performances and speeches. This was top of her wish-list and should be completed in early 2019 by local craftsmen. With some £80 left over, we were able to buy art materials in Nablus. Big smiles all round.
Let there be music…in Burin
On an equally positive note, we were able to contribute to Burin Community School’s newly formed school orchestra. Three trustees accompanied the recently appointed music teacher, Ihssan Foqha (an accomplished oud-player) to a well-stocked music shop in nearby Huwwara armed with a list of desired instruments. The two-hour shopping-trip was greatly helped by Ihssan’s brother, a professional musician.
The final selection included a Yamaha keyboard with stand, two ouds, a guitar, tabla, xylophone, drum-kit, plus other drums and tambourines, totalling just over £1500 – with a discount. Two days later, some of us witnessed the first music class in a newly created Music Room at the school. Click here to enjoy the video!
It was officially inaugurated a week later with a representative from the Ministry of Education. Speeches, flags, laughter, dancing and music made it a memorable occasion and OHT representatives were given a ‘thank you’ plaque from the school. This was all visible proof that music is a wonderful therapy for these children and a means of bringing them together creatively and joyfully.