Problems Faced by Palestinian Children and Youth in Israel
One of the main problems that Palestinian children in Israel face is the alarming socio-economic situation they have to endure. The ‘Or Commission’ Report pointed out that “poverty in the Arab sector is more severe than in the entire Israeli society” and fuels the sense of deprivation. The gravity of the situation becomes clear when we take a close look at the statistics: The percentage of Palestinian families under the poverty line rose from 48.4% in 2003, to 53.5% in 2009. In other words, one-half of all Palestinian families live in poverty. Even more serious is the state of Palestinian children, of approximately 60% of which are poor and 73% are at poverty risk according to the recent figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2009.
In addition, there is an acute lack of meaningful after-school activities for Palestinian children and youth in Israel. They spend many hours in front of the TV, playing with the computer, or going around at the streets, being exposed to serious dangers. All Arab villages and towns in Israel lack adequate and/or sufficient playgrounds, safe streets, cultural centers, libraries, theaters, cinema, etc.
Regarding music education, Palestinian citizens have suffered from a shortage of professional musical frameworks and the repression of cultural expressions. Today, after more than 60 years, Beit Almusica is the only recognized Arab Conservatory in Israel, among 39 Jewish institutions, providing the opportunity to talented young Palestinians to take the Bagrut examination, which helps them to study music at a university or music academy.
By providing Palestinian children, who are growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage, with constructive alternatives for reaching their full human potential can contribute towards bringing about positive change for the individual and the community. Musical education will also benefit Palestinian children in developing other basic skills such as concentration, counting, listening, and cooperation while also promoting understanding of language, improving the ability to recall information,
and creating an environment more conducting to learning in other areas.
The Case of Programs for Children at Risk
The Affirmative Action for Children Today, or AACT in its acronym, is a pilot project that aims at supporting Palestinian children growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage to reach their full potential through musical education at high professional standards. The project addresses the sense of depravation and insecurity that is especially severe among disadvantaged Palestinian children in Israel, fueled by the situation they have to endure. The project nurtures a sense of self-identity and dignity as positive agents of change for both themselves and the community. In addition, it addresses the lack of meaningful after-school and activities, the lack of opportunities for development of artistic talent and cultural expression, the lack of access to musical education, resources, services and facilities.
The project provides an instrument and a specially tailored education in Western and Eastern music to 100 children from low-income families living in the Galilee region. In addition, beneficiaries participate in group and individual classes, creative and supportive activities, and small-scale public events. In order to create a comprehensive frame for change, the children, their teachers and their parents are part of a social training ensuring sustainability and effectiveness of the project. Through this project we aim to help children improve their personal, social, and learning skills while continuing to appreciate their identity and cultural heritage. The project encourages positive integration into society and opens perspectives for a brighter future to disadvantaged children, indirectly benefiting their families and local communities.
Who we work with
Children (3rd, 4th and 5th grade, ages 8-11 years) growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage. Risk factors for children include: poverty, welfare dependence, unemployed parents, absent parents, one-parent families, parents who did not graduate from high school .
The AACT project will strive for having a diverse groups of 100 Palestinian children, making sure that there is gender balance (girls and boys) and that different religious backgrounds are included (Muslim, Christian, Druze). Most of the children that will take part in the project will be from low income families, since a substantial percentage of Palestinian children in Israel are disadvantaged in terms of resources available for healthy physical and mental development. Poverty has been shown to be particularly detrimental in terms of children's subsequent educational and other life course outcomes .
What we want to achieve
• Develop music talent amongst 100 Palestinian children growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage while raising their awareness of their roots, identity, and culture, encouraging them to take pride in their cultural heritage on the long term.
• Support 100 at-risk families through offering meaningful alternatives to their children,
thus promoting their positive integration into society.
• Expose the community, especially at schools, to cultural expressions through professional music performances in which children will be able to share their newly obtained skills.
• Build a solid program that can provide continuity and sustainability, including the establishment of a Scholarships' Fund and building management and teaching skills of project's team.
The project’s activities include:
Professional music training at Beit Almusica Conservatory
Project staff will work out specific one-year programs for each student and set timetables. Since the beneficiaries are not able to purchase their own instruments, the project will provide for this, as well as for transportation to and from the conservatory for those needing it.
Selected students will take part in a specially tailored musical program for one academic year that offers them the possibility to engage in meaningful activities and to express through music. Through the program they will develop their skills in music in a professional framework. They will have weekly individual classes of 30 min. in western and eastern instruments including: violin, cello, oud, flute, clarinet, viola, qanoun, and Arabic percussions.
Social and personal empowerment
During the year, students will take part in social and personal empowerment sessions at their schools providing life skills such as communication, self image and expectations, coping with pressure, responsibility and social involvement among others. The children’s teachers and parents will be integrated in part of the sessions in order to establish the broadest possible support for the project.
For this year, Beit Almusica is cooperating with the Duroob Institute for Leadership Development and Social Growth. Duroob has extensive experience in working with at risk populations and in schools. The Duroob experts are responsible for the social empowerment as well as the social follow up and evaluation of the participating children.
Enrichment activities including guided concerts, competitions, concerts, etc.
In course of the year, students will take part in different enrichment activities including: visit concerts, participate at guided concerts at their schools, visit conferences, competitions and special music workshops. Special focus will be placed in raising awareness and knowledge of Arabic and Oriental music as part of their Palestinian cultural heritage.
Meetings with parents and teachers
In order to reach a sustainable, long-reaching impact, the AACT project targets not only children, but also the close environment in which they live. This includes parents and teachers. Parent involvement has significant benefits for the development of children.
Project coordinators will be in contact with beneficiaries' parents and teachers in order to know more about the situation of children, to involve caregivers in providing stimulus and support and in order to keep them up-to date about development and performance of children. Relations will be built through meetings, participation in public performances, and regular updates.
• Talented children growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage will improve their personal, social, and learning skills through professional music education at the Conservatory. Children will have more self-awareness, confidence and will learn to express themselves through music in front of an audience. Beneficiaries will be more knowledgeable and proud of their Palestinian roots, identity, and cultural heritage.
• Children that are benefiting from the program and are committed to continue their music education will become part of the Program of Studies at the Conservatory, which leads to the 'Bagrut' matriculation exam and enable them to study music at a university or music academy. For children coming from circumstances of social and economic disadvantage, this program will develop music skills and
excellence, thus opening bright perspectives for the future.
• The impact of the program includes a positive integration of the beneficiaries in their communities and the wider society. They will acquire new skills, including communication and conflict management skills and will learn to be more tolerant in their relation with others.
• We expect beneficiaries to improve their performance at school, their situation at home, and to be better integrated in the community. Especially talented children will be role models for other children in the community, encouraging them to engage in cultural activities, and promoting meaningfulparticipation and appreciation of cultural expressions.
What we achieved: School-Year 2011-2012 and 2012-2013
Starting with the School-Year 2011-2012 we expanded the project as to reach other areas in the Galilee and to benefit other communities in the region. During the School-Year that began in September 2011, Beit Almusica works with four schools from the region. From each school around 25 students have been chosen to be part of the project. These young talents will start their music lessons and social training in mid September. Before project start, during the implementation and at the end of the school year a comprehensive social evaluation will take place. This is in order to ensure long-term sustainable results as foreseen in the original renewed project proposal and following the results of the external evaluation for the pilot implemented in 2009. After the end of the project, committed children will be able to continue their music education through the Scholarships Fund.
During the preparation meetings with the schools we had a special experience with one of the principals. The principal in Ibillin, Ms. Taghreed Sheikh Ahmad, spoke about one of her students who had been part of the first AACT pilot and continued to study on a scholarship provided by Beit Almusica. He used to be a shy and introverted kid facing hard times being accepted by peers. At the end of the academic year 2010/2011 he stood up in front of over 500 students and teachers in the school yard and played the clarinet, receiving great applause. As she said, this was one of the mostmoving moments in her career as educator.
Looking back: the AACT Project School Year 2009/2010
During the first year of the project, we approached eight schools in Shefa-Amr and Ibillin where auditions involving 96 children were held. The criteria in selecting the 60 children were the students’ socioeconomic situation, as assessed by the schools, and their musical talent, as judged by Beit Almusica’s professional staff.
The AACT musical education program was launched at a special ceremony on December 7, 2009 at Beit Almusica, with more than 130 in attendance. The event was presided over by Said Silbak, one of the first students to begin his musical career with Beit Almusica. Today, as well as being a student at Haifa University and on the board of directors at Beit Almusica, Said is a volunteer teacher of the program. We believe he is an inspiring role model for the students, able to lead by personal example and share his
deep commitment to music.
After some drop outs, 50 students regularly attended music lessons at the conservatory, learning various Eastern and Western instruments such as the oud, violin, viola, cello, flute saxophone, among others. Participation of students was high with 90% attendance. We invested much effort in encouraging and urging the children to persevere with their music education.
The positive influence of the project was evident, as the following cases and feedback clearly show:
Rawi, from 3rd Grade, whose father is unemployed, started Qanun lessons in mid December 2009. Rawi is a very shy child and could face hard times at school. One day, when his mother picked him up from the Conservatory, she mentioned: “Since he started his music education at Beit Almusica, he became more self-confident and proud of himself. Especially after he saw children in his age playing at concerts he had an aim: to study music.”
Julia’s father is also unemployed. Julia (4th Grade) is now learning flute with Sahar Kardosh, teacher and flute player. Both, Julia’s mother and flute teacher could feel an important change in Julia’s behaviour: “Our whole home is undergoing a positive change in concert with Julia’s positive development,” said her mother.
During one of the musical events attended by beneficiaries of the project, we received the following observation:
“I enjoyed meeting one of the most important members of the audience, 11 year old Ba’ha, who is learning to play the drums at Beit el Musica. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him afterwards but he was very attentive during the whole performance. I couldn’t help but think that if I had heard Bach and Beethoven at 11 years maybe my life, or at least my taste in music, might have been much different. It is so important to create opportunities for these kids.”