A Garden in Qalqilya

West Bank

What can a principal do to make every morning even better for her students? AmalHasanein, principal of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Qalqilya Boys Basic School No. 2, decided to start with something simple and powerful: a garden at the school, to welcome her students as they arrive.

Looking at the new garden, Ms. Hasanein says it is the “result of intense efforts from the local community, students and administration.” Community members, teachers and students worked through several weekends to paint walls, plant flowers and repave the entrance.

Ms. Hasanein has been able to provide material and human support for the renovation of the garden with help from the local community organization. She was also able to coordinate with the Municipality of Qalqilya to provide any other necessary support. These partnerships led to improvements to the school which include repaving of the school entrance, reconstruction of a rear wall and installations of umbrellas and iron benches in the school yard. The community was also able to paint all doors, stairwells and markings for all sports fields. The project’s crowning glory is the creation of the school garden.

“The garden made the school a green environment and makes it cleaner and beautiful”, says Abdul Hamid Awad, a fifth grader. Ms. Hasanein explains that working on the garden “strengthened the spirit of cooperation and belonging among students towards the school. The students actually started to get excited about cleaning the school premises and taking care of the flowers they planted. Students even started to ask for classes to be taught outdoors in the garden. Since then, several music lessons have taken place there.”

There have been other positive developments as well, showing the impact even a small change can have for Palestine refugee students in the West Bank. Ms. Hasanein says, “I have even observed reduced anger and peer violence during recess among the children, because they consider themselves a team after all their work together.”

Along with their greater sense of community, the students’ feeling of ownership and responsibility has given teachers an opportunity to stress the importance of environmental awareness, encouraging the children to recognize themselves as stewards of their environment. Sometimes, the most beautiful flowers can grow from the smallest seeds.