Saturday, March 24, 2018

School teams ready for finals in Palestinian history competition

By Martin Leeper - March 11, 2018
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [school] [Education]

For seven weeks now, every Saturday, a bus of teachers, students and family members arrive at the Yasser Arafat Museum (YAM). 

The students, 10th and 11th graders, are here to compete in the first ever Palestine history competition.
Three teams, three members each, from three different schools compete on a stage set up in the YAM auditorium.
The stage reminds one of any other game show. There is a moderator and television cameras, a countdown clock, even a big red button for submitting an their answers.
Unlike most game shows, however, it is not a race. In four rounds, each team gets three questions. They are given time to confer and answer accordingly.
The questions get sequentially more difficult and focus on Palestinian history from roughly 1900 to 2004.
For example: What year did Palestine announce their intention to establish democracy in the West Bank?
The answer was 1969.
Mohammed Halayqeh is the Director of YAM and sees this competition as function of the museum’s fundamental mission. “We are first, an educator,” Halayqeh told Palestine Monitor.
There were 17 schools in total participating in the program, each having a school competition to determine the team sent to YAM stage.
Before the school competition, students are taken on a field trip to the museum in order to familiarize themselves with the history.
Education everywhere faces challenges, but in occupied Palestine students face unique difficulties.
In 2016 a television program brought high school students in to quiz them on important Palestinian figures. The students had a “very difficult time,” Halayqeh said.
The museum and Yasser Arafat Foundation discussed how they could help.
They debated on whether it was the schools, or the students exposure that made them so poor in history. They decided to try and make it fun.
“This is what the museum is for,” Halayqeh said, “to teach.”
Halayqeh sees it as a important role and between the field trips to the finale, he sees it as a huge success.
“We were surprised. When they have the chance and the venue, they are very much excited [for their history]. It’s really, really encouraging so far.”
The competing schools this year come from all over the West Bank - Hebron, Nablus Jerusalem etc.
Taybub Abu Thaer is the deputy director of the Yasser Arafat Foundation and one of the organizers of the program. He regrets that they could not included Gaza students this time.
“We wanted to include the Gaza Strip but with the situation in Gaza right now we couldn’t, this year.” However, they plan on expanding next year and he hopes they can include Gaza, “even if it is by Skype.”
The team of girls who won this Saturday were from the city of Jenin and they will be returning for the finale on April 7.
The competition runs for 10 weeks total, the winner from the nine preceding weeks will come back for a final four round tournament.
The first, second and third place winners will receive prizes ranging from school supplies to tablets to laptops.
March 8 was International Women’s Day but when asked if that was the reason all the teams competing this Saturday were girls Thaer said no. “Girls, mostly, are more serious [than boys]” he laughs.
“So it happens that we have two thirds girls and maybe one third boys teams."
The competition also airs on Palestine TV every Monday at 7pm.
Lead photo: In the second round the team from Jenin who eventually won, answered their question correctly. Cheers from the sound system and the victory graphic followed every correct answer.

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