It’s graduation season! Dozens of young women and men are celebrating the completion of their ELCJHL school careers with festive graduation ceremonies this month. Here, Dr. Charlie Haddad, ELCJHL director of education, addresses graduates at the School of Hope, Ramallah, on May 21.
ELCJHL Director of Education Dr. Charlie D. Haddad recently addressed the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages at George Mason University of Fairfax, Virginia, U.S.A., on the topic of peace education.
In his Feb. 7 address, Haddad described the school’s efforts to integrate peace education and interfaith dialogue into the curriculum. Haddad explained the steps the ELCJHL is taking to respond to deteriorating socio-economic conditions, declining income and increasing fanaticism in the region. Haddad was encouraged by the response to his message.
“Many of the attendants who are TESOL teachers have already contacted me by e-mail since the conference expressing interest in doing twinning programs, exchanges and pen-pal correspondence with our schools,” Haddad said. Some expressed interest in volunteering in ELCJHL schools and TESOL president Dr. Shelly Wong invited Haddad to join the organization.
A day earlier, Haddad met with congressional aids in Washington, D.C. He said his message there was that “most Palestinians want real peace where Palestinians and Israelis can again live together as good neighbors,” but that measures by the Israeli government are “widening the gap between Israelis, Palestinians and also the West!” Haddad was accompanied by Pastor Russ Siler, who formerly served as pastor for the ELCJHL’s English-speaking congregation in Jerusalem.
Dr.Charlie D. Haddad, the ELCJHL Director of Education (Superintendent) affirms the commitment of the ELCJHL Schools and Educational Programs to integrating peace education in curricular and extra-curricular activities as part of their mission. He stresses that the future of the area will be in the hands of the next generations, who have to be trained and cultured to coexist harmoniously and peacefully regardless of nationality, religion or ethnicity. The ELCJHL Schools and Educational Programs are striving to be role models for other educational institutions and for the community at large by working diligently towards achieving their mission.
Our foreign partners help us to keep the ELCJHL schools operating as a sign of hope for the community. Last fall, when the government schools did not operate for two months, the Lutheran schools were there, a steady presence in the midst of uncertainty. One of the ways this happens is through the scholarship programs, which help families pay the tuition costs. The costs are already heavily subsidized, but this past year the international boycott on aid to Palestinians worsened further an already dismal economic climate. The ELCJHL has found that families want to contribute to the tuition costs because it promotes a sense of partnership and self-worth.
According to Dr. Charlie Haddad, Director of Education of the ELCJHL, the average annual school cost per child is about $1600; because of the church’s support, tuition rates vary among the grade levels and schools from $430-$1000. Contributions come from individuals, church congregations, international philanthropic organizations, and international church partners.
FELM, the Finnish ministry that outgoing Deacon Pirkko Tuhkanen represented, has a sponsorship program that helps about 200 sponsored private students pay their tuition in the Ramallah, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem schools as well as the Boys’ Home in Beit Jala. The partnership is not just financial, but the partners write notes and cards to one another. The international partners often send birthday cards and small gifts, which gives the children a nice lift in their spirits. Through the notes written by the students, the people and congregations get a window into the reality of life in Palestine. It is a win-win program for all involved, and we thank those who are participating!
The school kids at the Lutheran schools in Palestine are lucky. While most of the 1.2 million Palestinian students are not in school because of a general strike, the Lutheran schools are leading the charge to ensure their students don’t pay the price of this latest situation. They have mostly remained open in the face of pressure to close and support the strike, and they are working with other private schools on an initiative to remain open.
In situations like this, the ones who lose in the end are the children. That is not acceptable,” said Dr. Charlie D. Haddad, Lutheran Schools’ Director.
According to Mr. Basre Salih, Director of International Relations for the PA Ministry of Education, only about 10% of the public schools opened their official school year on Saturday. Government workers are on strike because they have not been paid salary for over six months since the international boycott on aid began shortly after Hamas was elected in January. But the situation changes daily, and information is sketchy because those who track information for the government have also been on strike.
Dr. Haddad expressed his sympathy and support for the teachers who have not been paid, but also said the children should not suffer. The private schools felt pressure to support the strike this week, and on Tuesday, when the other private schools were pressured into closing, only the Lutheran schools opened.
Salih said that it is frustrating because this is “hurting the core of our education,” and because during the Al-Aqsa intifada, the Palestinians kept the schools open as much as they could. This is an example of how stretched and frustrated the people are, he said.
According to Dr. Haddad, ten percent of the 1.2 million Palestinian students attend private schools, like the ELCJHL, which are mostly open, and 12% go to UNRWA (United Nations Refugee Welfare Association) schools, which are also open.