An eleven person team1 from the Friends of Waldorf Education travelled from Karlsruhe to the Gaza Strip on 3 September 2011, in order to continue the emergency pedagogical work started there in 2009, and which has been financed by the German Federal Foreign Office since 2010. The focus of this now sixth mission was the training and continuing education of pre-school teachers, teachers, and social workers.
The mission began with various hurdles. The entire pedagogical work materials were seized by customs agents. One team member was not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, another only after a week-long delay. The reasons for this remain unknown; the German embassy in Tel Aviv could also not give any definitive answers.
The team member, who was first allowed to enter after a delay, wanted to carry out a planned book project. But due to the limited time was not able to. The realisation of the book project is now planned for the next mission. The work of the nine team members, who were able to enter Gaza on September 5th, had to begin without materials and required a lot of improvisation. A new work area for this mission was early childhood education for children 0-3 years old. This topic was met with great interest and resulted in the redesign of some rooms in the daycare centre. Besides this, the pedagogical impulses and suggestions were taken in excitedly. A deepening of this work is very much wished for. This results not least due to the lack of specialized training for working with children in this age group in Gaza and in kindergartens there, there is already a very strict curriculum.
In the training courses for six redesigned kindergartens of the Al Qattan Center for the Child previous missions could be built upon. The central issue was sensibilisation for the needs of (traumatised) children, on which the respective pedagogical methods should be orientated. Also in this area, local cooperation partners expressed the desire for more in depth trainings.
In the training course for the workers of the Child Friendly Space, topics like promoting resilience, what the differences are between a traumatised and a healthy child, as well as practical methods for everyday work were on the agenda. The employees brought much creativity to the “translation” of the methods into their own culture and language. Simple songs were translated into Arabic after being heard just once and the necessary melodic changes were made. Some participants of this training have no previous pedagogical education. They expressed the wish to now complete one.
The external evaluation of the Child Friendly Space accentuated the positive effects on the children as well as their parents and spoke in favour of a continuation of the project.
To conclude the mission, Reem Abu Jaber, director of the Al Qattan Center for the Child, expressed gratitude for the two year long, good cooperation. She emphasised that the Friends of Waldorf Education are one of the few organisations, which works in the area of psycho-social health and trauma pedagogy and which comes continually over such a long period of time to the Gaza Strip. This was a positive conclusion to the work and preparations for the next mission at the end of November have already begun.
The trip out of Israel tarnished the positive impressions of the work a bit. The security procedures at the airport Ben Gurion created such long wait times, that the team almost missed their flight back to Germany. All team members were intensively examined in special rooms. We still do not understand why a project supported by the German Federal Foreign Office had to undergo such examination. The difficulties the team encountered travelling in and out of the area though will not stop them from continuing to expand the trust and cooperation with the still suffering people in the Gaza Strip in the future.
Report by Lukas Mall, assistant emergency pedagogy, experiential pedagogue
1The emergency pedagogy team consisted of: Bernd Ruf (mission leader), Kristina Manz (coordinator), Lukas Mall (assistant, experiential pedagogue), Monika Görzel-Straube (Waldorf pedagogue), Heidi Wolf (art therapist), Hans-Joachim Sennock (Waldorf pedagogue), Heike Böhret (Waldorf pre-school teacher), Dimitri Vinogradov (eurythmist – not allowed to enter), Micaela Sauber (story teller), Grit Malsch (Waldorf pedagogue), Ulla Middelkamp (early childhood pedagogue)