Originally published in the Education 3.0: The Magazine written and produced by the Society for Advancement of Education, Jerusalem and distributed at the SAE’s Education 3.0 Symposium in New York City on November 5, 2019.
Children of the foreign community in Israel study and reach achievements that seemed impossible, through Learning Centers established by the Society for Advancement of Education in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
Children of the foreign community (asylum seekers and migrant workers) experience a learning and social gap compared to their Israeli peers, a gap that stems from time spent in insufficient preschool frameworks, gaps in language acquisition, and gaps connected to non-nurturing environments and emotional distress.
“Many families in the community live in survival conditions that force parents to work long hours and the community solution has been pirate frameworks operated by community members in which conditions of physical, emotional and educational neglect increase the children’s developmental and educational gaps,” says Eden Israeli, Director of Learning Difficulties at the Society for Advancement of Education, Jerusalem (SAE).
“The SAE has set a goal of advancing these children,” Eden explains, “and has established Centers for them in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. At the Centers students decrease the educational gaps, receive homework assistance, take part in social activities and most importantly – feel that someone really cares about them.”
Zahava Shimon, who teaches a remedial class at the Center in Jerusalem, recounts that every day she is moved anew by the force of the change taking place in the children’s lives. “One special story I recall is of S., an 11 year-old girl whose parents come from Ethiopia who suffered from a very low self-image, which influenced her educational achievements and made it difficult for her to form social connections.
“From the first moment I saw this girl, it was clear to me that her actions were based on a great deal of pain,” recounts Zahava. “I started to weave a relationship of trust with her, we had regular meeting times, I spoke to her with respect, and slowly she began to read and to understand texts. One day she came into my room and saw that I was in another conversation. “But this is my time!” she said to me, and then I understood that we had succeeded. At the end of that year she wrote me a very moving letter that was a testament to the meaningful process she had gone through.”
R., an Eritrean boy, came to the center in 3rd grade unable to read but with motivation “as high as the sky” and fire in his eyes. “We identified this and we gave him the tools to flourish, and he indeed took the opportunity and very quickly succeeded in closing the gap, answering questions in the textbooks and justifying his answers. It was simply amazing to see how a boy who fell through the cracks without a supportive framework could succeed if he received the necessary tools and attention,” says Shimon.
Eden Israeli emphasizes that the Learning Centers are an alternative for many children who come from homes in distress, and the Centers prevent them from wandering the streets and getting into trouble. “There are many children in our Centers who can completely change the picture of their own future. We hope to make this possible for more children.”