With Palestinian teachers in the Gaza Strip unable to get training on educating children with learning difficulties, Atsuyoshi Saisho was determined to find a way around an Israeli blockade to help them.
The 23-year-old student of educational studies at Waseda University found a way, launching a training program in June in a joint project with officials of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
“I wanted to help (Palestinians) break through the wall built by the blockade,” Saisho said.
Access to the Gaza Strip is strictly restricted by Israel’s economic sanctions, making it difficult to train teachers outside the Gaza Strip. Only five of about 240 schools there offer special programs to children with learning difficulties and there are less than 20 experts.
Under the 20-hour training program for teachers, conducted by Mayada Al-natour, an associate professor and expert on education for children with learning difficulties at Jordan University, teachers learn how to grasp the scope of a child’s problem and map out a learning program for the student.
On the program’s start-up day on Aug. 26, Al-natour delivered a lecture from Amman, Jordan, through the teleconference system, which was connected to a TV monitor in Gaza.
Some 20 teachers received the training on that day, as Saisho was monitoring the progress beside Al-natour.
In a previous project, the resident of Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, who has temporarily left his school to participate in international cooperation projects, provided advanced education to children in poor rural villages in Bangladesh by showing lectures he recorded at urban schools.
In Gaza, Saisho works with the UNRWA, which operates schools and clinics for Palestinian refugees in countries across the Middle East.
Sae Osawa, an official of UNRWA’s office in Gaza, said that a UNRWA test of 220,000 students between the ages 6 and 15 in the strip a few years ago and a follow-up survey showed that 20 to 30 percent of them potentially suffer from learning difficulties, including dyslexia.
Because of Israel’s sanctions and the financial limitations of the UNRWA, the schools cannot afford to meet the specific needs of students with learning disorders.
To support the program, Saisho will cover about 1 million yen ($12,750) in costs, including rewards for experts, with donations collected via the Internet and other channels.
“As freshmen start their new semester from September, it is hoped that this program will make a difference,” said Osawa of the UNRWA.
The UNRWA also records the lectures conducted in Amman, hoping to make them into materials for teachers across Gaza and elsewhere.
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