Israeli Schools Strive For Normality in the Face of Terror
World ORT’s Investment in Rocket-Proof Buildings Pays Off
The recent four-day rocket barrage against Israel’s south has vindicated the way World ORT supports education in the country. Investment in rocket proof buildings, the introduction of new technology, the creation of a network, and simply providing understanding and solidarity have all come to the fore during the terrorists’ onslaught during which some 200 rockets exploded on Israeli territory, including the towns of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva. Only one of the World ORT-affiliated schools in the region – Makif Aleph in Be’er Sheva – had to close: like other schools in the area, it is not built to withstand a rocket strike and its shelters can accommodate only a fraction of its 1,700 students.
“This is the main problem here,” said Smadar Avidan, Makif Aleph’s Innovation Leader. “Attacks on areas close to Gaza have not stopped for a decade so schools within seven kilometres of the border have either been rebuilt with reinforced structures or have had sufficient safety rooms provided. But it’s only recently that bigger missiles have been used against us which have brought Be’er Sheva and other cities into range. I don’t see how our situation can be improved because it will cost a lot of money and the government isn’t going to do it soon.”
The closure of schools undoubtedly saved lives: an elementary school in Makif Aleph’s neighbourhood suffered a direct hit from a rocket on Sunday.
World ORT is building a science and technology centre as part of a new, rocket-proof campus at Sha’ar HaNegev High School, just two kilometres from the Gaza border. It is not due to open until the new academic year but the existing campus has sufficient shelters to have allowed it to stay open throughout the past four days. The greatest challenge was attendance.
“Parents are afraid to put their children on the bus after what happened last year so a lot of children, especially the younger ones, are not coming even though the teachers are here and want to teach,” Innovation Leader Zohar Nir Levi said, referring to last April’s firing of an anti-tank missile at a bus carrying Sha’ar HaNegev students resulting in the death of a 16-year-old boy.
Shikma High School, a World ORT-affiliated school south of Ashkelon, was rebuilt 18 months ago by the Government to withstand rocket attacks but as the attacks continued the number of students risking the journey to and from the school’s sanctuary declined.
“Yesterday, about half of our 450 students came; today it was about one-third,” said Ofra Halperin, a senior teacher at the school, on Monday. “We’re trying to maintain normality but it’s very difficult.”
As the school’s Innovation Leader, it is Ms Halperin who champions new technologies and innovative pedagogy provided by World ORT. At Sha’ar HaNegev, assignments and materials were made available to students via the Internet so that they could study at home and, as the situation continued, Ms Halperin discussed with colleagues how to use their new Interactive Whiteboards and other equipment to do the same.
A benefit of being part of World ORT’s network is that she was able to discuss how to do this with colleagues at other schools, in this instance Orna Tsur, Innovation Leader at Nofey Habsor High School, another World ORT-affiliated school, in nearby Eshkol.
Like Shikma, Nofey Habsor has a newly-built, reinforced campus which means that its 860 students do not even have to leave their classes if a red alert sounds.
“Last Monday, all 8th grade children studied at home while we provided lessons over the Internet. The experiment was very successful. Today I sent details of our experience and the website we have created for the purpose to Shikma,” Ms Tsur said on Monday.