Since 2007, Israel has enforced a land, sea and air military siege on the people of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has negative impacts on many aspects of daily life one of which is early childhood development and education. Following repeated full-scale assaults on the Gaza Strip especially in 2008-2009, 2011 and 2014, along with severe restrictions imports, many schools remain damaged by war and repairs are still needed.
As a result of limited construction on school buildings, more than 94% of schools operate on a double-shift basis hosting one group of students in the morning and another group in the afternoon. As a result of the implicit violence and systematic disruptions to the education system, the educational access and developmental needs of many children is tremendously downgraded. The children of Gaza deserve much better.
Late in 2015 the Rachel Corrie Foundation joined the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) to launch a pilot program in Rafah for children with learning disabilities. The project, requested by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), filled a void by providing training and psycho-social counseling for economically disadvantaged and learning disabled kids and their families. By implementing scientific solutions for children with learning disabilities to develop skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, training families to better support their children, and creating job opportunities for qualified professionals in this field the project addressed educational challenges that are exacerbated by the Israeli siege of Gaza and the limitations created by political divisions.
After evaluation of this pilot program, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees is ready to implement it permanently and MECA, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and the Rachel Corrie Foundation are ready to help. After repeated attacks on the Gaza Strip coupled with an ongoing siege, the children of Gaza deserve our support.
The Samira Project targets 150 economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children, ages 6 to 12 and their families in Rafah. Project activities include developing a teaching curriculum to make learning tasks more achievable, conducting individual as well as group guidance sessions to follow-up and evaluate the psychosocial status of children, and implementing creative activities such as theater, music, art and reading, to enhance the children’s skills and provide them with a space for self-expression.
The objectives of the Samira Project are:
• Developing children’s skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, increasing their ability to learn.
• Supporting children psychologically and socially to rebuild their conﬁdence.
• Attending to learning disabilities and working with children to reduce violent and disruptive behavior.
• Training families to better support their children with learning disabilities.
• Creating job opportunities for qualiﬁed professionals (special education teachers and a social worker) in this ﬁeld.