What would you do, if you were 6 years old and your family’s village had no school? What if you had to walk 6 kilometers each way to go to school? Amir is 11. He has attended school for exactly one week of his life.
What if you attended a village school until you were 11, and then had to walk 7 kilometers each way to attend the next level of school? With no available public transportation, and an extremely exposed desert landscape to traverse, maybe you would decide a primary education was enough for you. That is the case of two girls not far from here, who have aged out of the local school, who might just go to school, if only there were transportation.
What if you did have a school bus, but it was taken over by soldiers? Maybe you would decide you did not want to get on any school bus after that.
Access to education is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet children all over the world face all kinds of barriers to receiving an education. In the Hebron and Bethlehem governates, I’ve been introduced to a number of situations where access to education is a continual challenge for impoverished Palestinian children. But a number of people of good will are working to correct the problem, “schwei, schwei,” little by little, with the resources available. Some volunteer their time to organize their community and to gather resources. Some put a cheerful mural on the wall of a school in an impoverished community to instill love of education in children.
Some take pictures to build bridges and encourage curiosity. Some provide school supplies or books, some fix roofs, while others rehabilitate homes to be used as village classrooms at their own expense. And some diverse groups, Christians and Jews and Muslims, Americans and British and Israeli and Palestinian, pool resources to create learning opportunities for children who otherwise would not have chances for summer enrichment.
You don’t have to be a big nonprofit to make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is a good book, a smile, a language exchange, a cup of shai, a kite, a tent. Someone to walk alongside. Someone willing to try.
I’ve been “in the field” all day today, meeting people, networking, seeing some of these and other situations. Many conditions contribute to educational readiness, such as hope, trust, shelter, water, and nutrition. It’s grain harvest time in the rural south Hebron Hills, an important time to gather wheat and barley and fodder for the sheep and goats, an ingathering of the hard labor of plowing and sowing in other seasons.
In one village, men, women and children were bagging the grain and carrying it to trucks so it could be stored. Harvest is a seasonal community endeavor, showing how people can accomplish much when working together.
But the day before yesterday, a man’s whole grain harvest was burnt by settlers in the night. The harvest represented food for his family, the sweat of his brow, the livelihood for 14 people. It was an incalculable loss. We went past the black ashen spot where the grain pile had stood. It is a stark reminder of the cruelty we are capable of, a blot of shame on the landscape of humanity.