3rd Conference in Bethlehem 2013

The school theatre between reality and expectations

by Mr. Mahmoud Eid- Ministry of Higher Education

A historical background

After the Palestinian territories have fallen under the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on the education system. It kept the Jordanian curriculum in the schools of the West Bank and the Egyptian curriculum in the schools in Gaza Strip after it had cancelled some books like the national education. It had removed everything related to the Palestinian cause. It has replaced the word “Palestine” by the word “Israel”. It had followed a policy that restricted the students and teachers with what is mentioned in the books. On the other hand, they paid the teachers very low salaries without any incentives that would motivate them to become creative and supervise school activities that are not mentioned in these books. This led to not having any of the school cultural, artistic and scientific activities. The school theatre was one of them and the activities were limited to physical education only inside the school.

When the National Palestinian Authority took responsibility for the educational process in 1994, the Ministry of Education set a plan to advance this process and the school activities. Therefore, they formed a general administration of student activities. Its goal was to plan activities that show the students’ talents in various fields and then to work on developing them.

The reality of the school theatre:

The life that the Palestinian students live made their daily life abundant with stories and situations. Not to mention, the several social problems that impose themselves on the Palestinian society. All this has contributed to create an environment which could be a base for an innovative theatre whether in the city under siege, the crowded camp or the marginal village. The Palestinian society has varied with this entire spectrum and everyone has his own story and theatre. In spite of this, the school theatre in Palestine is considered too poor to the  constituents that support producing and directing theatrical work by the students themselves due to many reasons mainly:

  1. The lack of qualified cadres at schools that are capable to teach the students the simplest theatrical skills.
  2. The lack of sufficient time within the curriculum to practice this kind of activities.
  3. The weak awareness of the importance of the theatre in developing and refining the students’ personalities.
  4. The scarcity of material capabilities to contract with local organizations and experts to train the students to produce school plays.
  5. The non-existence of old or new theatres at schools.
  6. The cultural foundation is poor to an outstanding theatrical purposeful text.

In spite of what is mentioned above, the attempts to produce theatrical work is not absolutely absent in the Palestinian schools at present. There are some teachers who believe in the theatre power to make a change. Individually they were able to adopt some social cases and educational values and in cooperation with some talented students in their schools were able to produce modest theatrical work which was played in end of year celebrations, open day or other local occasions. These performances did not exceed once or twice. This is almost exclusive to private schools and some public schools in case the supporting factors are available to produce.

It is necessary to draw the attention that many of the local specialized foundations in the field of theatre with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education trained some teachers who are interested but without setting follow-up plans or future development. This is why, most of the implemented programs by these co-partner foundations were ineffective as desired.

This situation went on since the Palestinian authority took power until 2010.After that the general administration of students’ activity took responsibility for developing the school theatre at the schools in Palestine

where it implemented several programs that aim to raise the awareness

  • of the Palestinian community about the importance of the theatre as:

- An effective educational means.

-an entertainment means to reduce the students’ psychological stress.

- an expressional tool that holds a noble mission.

 Based on this, it was contracted with many local foundations interested in developing the teachers’ cadres who can transfer the skills and lexical terms of the educational theatre to the students in sound ways. The school theatre has included in his annual planning for the students’ activities an annual competition that gives the chance to all students to participate in producing theatre work at least once a year.

 On the other hand, some theatrical work produced by the students participated in international theatrical festivals. Some of these are:

1. The European school theatre festival in Greece in 2010 and Italy in 2011.

  1.   The first Arab School Theatre Festival in Jordan in 2013 in which the play under the title Witchcraft and Sorcery, produced by the girls’ of the Martyrs of Bani Nu’eim, won the golden trophy for the best play.

 The vision

Having a school theatre gives the way for the teachers and students to show their abilities and creativity. They express through them some educational and social issues that affect them and the environment they live in to create a new generation aware of the importance of the theatre as an expressing tool. To achieve this, we need to follow the following steps:

- To run a campaign of awareness that includes all the components of the social fabric beginning with the decision makers in the Ministry of Education and ending up with the students’ parents.

- cooperating with the national theatrical foundations in order to perform plays in front of the students and their parents.

-affording the necessary budgets to build school theatres equipped with the theatre techniques.

- Training interested teachers on the theatrical skills to transfer them to the students.