This afternoon, I took the bus out to the School for Peace, to have a further meeting with Iman, and to see him at work. He is an Iranian refugee, which gives him the obvious advantage of being able to talk directly to the pupils. He was part way through a lesson when I arrived, but was also being filmed by an Israeli film crew, making a documentary. The kids weren’t fazed at all, but I did feel it gave me carte blanche to take some pictures of my own. It was difficult to work out what the lesson was about, but there was an impressive level of focus.
He went straight from there to acting as interpreter for a young Israeli who was teaching a class how to make a paper flower. The school is currently full of Israeli volunteers: I was caught between the origami on one side, and a frankly bizarre dance cum music session on the other, run by two energetic and bouncy Israeli ladies, which was greeted by a mixture of apathy and shrieking hysteria by its teenage participants. I am not sure either of these activities are what people have in mind when they talk about children’s right to an education, but I shouldn’t judge; a lot of my own stuff would be regarded as irredeemably flaky by some.
At the end of school, Iman disappeared to assist with the distribution of a meal to the students, before they were bussed to their various camps and houses, so I was able to sit and witness the various goings on – it resembled the most chaotic primary school you have ever seen (though the ages extended above that.) In one class, two tiny seven year old girls were doing an impressive job of cleaning their classroom. Nothing half-hearted here – they had stacked the tables and benches at one end in order to give it a thorough sweeping, then put the furniture back. Other classes were lined up, and each given a squirt of hand sanitizer before going for their meal (though I did see one girl look at her hand with intense suspicion, before wiping it on her jeans.)
The School for Peace is clearly doing an extraordinary job in impossible circumstances, and I saw some touching moments, such as the flower folders presenting their creations to a group from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the ceremony ending with hugs and laughter. But there was also a noisy squeal from the classroom with the sweepers. “Teeecher! Teeecher! Fight!” I was the only adult around at the time, so I marched in to find two twelve-year-old boys with their foreheads pressed against each other. Ironic – the first time in twenty-five years that I’ve had to break up a fight, and it was at the School for Peace.