08/25/2020, 12.59
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Fr. Ibrahim: how to open a school in the era of Covid-19

The director of the Christian institutes of the Holy Land asks teachers, pupils and parents to "collaborate" in a context of "fear" over a "virus that has destroyed the world". Lessons are scheduled to begin on September 1 in Israel and September 7 in Palestine. Remote teaching strengthened; the objective remains the presence in the classroom, but with halved numbers. The prayer of St. Francis unites Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - I ask parents to "collaborate with the school, even knowing that it will be difficult" but everyone is called "to do their part, supervising the children and guaranteeing them an adequate climate for studying".

To teachers and principals, I say: "We weren't ready for such an event and there are no words to describe the fatigue, but we must face the problems and solve them."

Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, discreet of the Franciscan Custody and director of the Christian schools of the Holy Land, is full of doubts and concerns, but also of hope, on the eve of the beginning of the school year at the time of Covid-19 .

Speaking to AsiaNews he confides “Even the children are afraid, like their parents, brothers, grandparents. We have never had a moment like this, this virus has destroyed the world”.

Closed since last March, with the first lockdown imposed in the area at the beginning of the pandemic, schools are preparing to reopen their doors on September 1 in Israel and September 7 in Palestine.

“In recent months - underlines Fr. Ibrahim - we did an online teaching and it went very well. Even the final exams were held remotely ".

During the summer, he adds, "we modernized the program in all Franciscan schools, facilitating distance learning online with pcs, tablet, smartphone" in the event of new closures, with the aim of "improving the connection between students, teachers and parents ".

“Of course, being in the classroom, the possibility of attending lessons is important - underlines the priest of Egyptian origin - but in this situation we have prepared ourselves to guarantee both face-to-face and online lessons. We start again with no more than 18 students per class, we can't let them all participate at the same time. In Jerusalem I have 400, we do 200 one day and the other 200 the next, with a criterion of alternation. The same in Bethlehem: 600 at home and 600 at school, but difficulties are not lacking”.

Among the priorities of the Franciscans in the Holy Land is the development and strengthening of the educational level of the local community, thanks to the contribution provided by the 17 schools of the Custody spread over a large territory, ranging from Israel to Palestine, from Cyprus to Jordan. There are five institutes in Jerusalem alone. There are over 11 thousand students who attend them and 1100 teachers who work within them, without distinction of religious faith.

The birth of the Franciscan schools in the Holy Land dates back to the 16th century and the Holy Land School of Bethlehem, founded in 1598, is the oldest in the entire Middle East. One of the specific objectives of these institutions is to provide education to people from different social and economic backgrounds.

They cover the entire school cycle, from kindergarten to high school, although most of the students then continue their schooling at university. Equipped with modern technological equipment, they are considered by the Ministry of Education to be among the best for educational excellence.

“We have to work a lot on the kids - continues Fr. Ibrahim - to emerge from this situation, in a constantly evolving healthcare and legislative context. The cases of contagion are constantly increasing, the numbers are growing and it is not excluded that at the beginning of September there may be new lockdowns. In Bethlehem, in August, we had to close the whole school for two cases of contagion and 90 students had to go home”.

The distance lessons will concern schoolchildren starting from the fifth grade. On the other hand, the kindergarten and classes from the first to the fourth will be face to face lessons with all the necessary safety measures, from the detection of the fever to the interpersonal distance, the masks and the medical certificate certifying the state of health.

“As Christian schools - he concludes - the message we want to launch is always the one linked to St. Francis, of peace and coexistence with Jews and Muslims even in this time of pandemic. This is why we will continue to start each day by reciting, all together regardless of faith, the simple prayer of the saint of Assisi”.

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