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Palestinian teacher wins $1M prize while West Bank colleagues strike

Hanan al-Hroub wins global teaching prize worth one million dollars at the height of a mass strike by Palestinian teachers for higher salaries and better terms.

Hanan al-Hroub. (YouTube screenshot)

Hanan al-Hroub. (YouTube screenshot)

Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian teacher from Bethlehem, won $1 million for her work promoting nonviolence through learning on Sunday night. Al-Hroub, who teaches in both the West Bank city of al-Bireh and Dheisheh refugee camp, was given the second annual Global Teacher prize at a ceremony in Dubai. Palestinian television stations broadcasted the competition, along with the celebrations that took place in Ramallah following the announcement.

Over 8,000 teachers from across the world competed for the prize; 50 made it to the final rounds, among them three Palestinian teachers. The final 10 also included teachers from several European countries, Kenya, Pakistan, India, the United States, Australia, and Japan.

Al-Hroub’s won the prize for her work in developing a method to educate students exposed to violence to embrace dialogue and nonviolence in a reality of violent, continual occupation. In a video produced for the competition, al-Hroub explains the difficulty of educating children toward nonviolence when they live in a reality where death and arrests are daily occurrence. Alongside the monetary prize, al-Hroub also received worldwide exposure, which included a congratulatory video message from the Pope and Prince William.

Palestinian teachers march in Ramallah against low salaries, March 7, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian teachers march in Ramallah against low salaries, March 7, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Despite the celebrations, however, al-Hroub does not receive the proper recognition — nor a decent wage — just like all other Palestinian teachers in the West Bank. Ironically, the best teacher in the world is part of an educational system that was completely shut down due to a strike last month over teachers’ terms of employment in the Palestinian Authority. Tens of thousands of teachers demonstrated at the beginning of the month, and over 200,000 students not attended school since February 10th. Only on Sunday, following promises to raise teacher salaries (and without any connection to al-Hroub’s win), did the strike come to an end.

Palestinian teachers are demanding standard terms for all public service employees, including a raise (the current salary for a starting teacher in the Palestinian Authority is NIS 1,700). The teachers are also demanding equal retirement benefits for women, and democratic elections for the General Union of Palestinian Teachers.

Immediately following her win on Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah praised both al-Hroub and teachers in general. At the height of the strike, however, Hamdallah was quoted as responding to the teachers’ demands by stating that “we will be able to meet these demands when we find oil and gas in Ramallah and Gaza.” Hamdallah also refused to meet with the teachers union, claiming that they do not represent the general federation, which is elected by the PLO and reached a deal with the education minister, which did not meet the demands of the teachers.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Carmen

      Congratulations Ms. Hanan al-Hroub, especially considering the context of what she is trying to achieve with her students, the monumental task of “developing a method to educate students exposed to violence to embrace dialogue and nonviolence in a reality of violent, continual occupation.”

      She was congratulated by the Pope and Prince William, but not oh, maybe President Barack Obama? Or would that have been considered antisemitic? And 1700 shekels for a teacher – that’s less than $500 dollars a month people! I’m happy for her win!

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    2. Ben

      “Anyone who calls for nonviolence in Israel will be branded as a suspected traitor, or at least as an idiot who believes in coexistence at a time when it’s so clear who the enemy is. Our obedience will be complete, up to and including clicking our heels. We won’t be like the Palestinians, where a teacher – that is, a woman – wrote a book and created educational games to encourage children to understand the other and choose to handle problems in nonviolent ways.

      The trouble with the Palestinian teacher is twofold. She has trained many other teachers in how to use her teaching method, thereby spreading the culture of nonviolence under the noses of the Israeli rulers. But the real failure in this story is that Israel didn’t detect her activity in time, didn’t realize she was competing for the Global Teacher Prize and didn’t monitor the judging process.

      Consequently, the unpleasant surprise was complete. Who on earth would even have thought that the Palestinian education system – the one awash in incitement, which supplies a full complement of excuses for the frozen diplomatic process – contained such a dangerous program of education to nonviolence?”


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