Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Colin South, Director, Friends School Ramallah/El-Bireh

  Colin and Kathy South are members of Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and, when in England where their home is, live in Witham, Essex. Colin has taught in the UK, Jamaica and Ghana for a combined period of 17 years. He has served as General Secretary of a Christian international charity and ecumenical agency of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Christians Abroad, for 13 years. He and his wife have lived and worked in Ramallah for the last three years. Colin serves as the Director of Friends School which is an administrative and educational leadership post. Kathy has extensive experience in adult and further education and currently serves as College Counsellor.

  I am confining my remarks to the role of Friends Schools, most of the background information for which is noted in John and Marjorie's submission[255].

  Just to supplement John's remarks, Friends Schools is concerned to provide an innovative educational service to the communities of Ramallah and El-Bireh. It promotes a liberal education encouraging research, questioning and problem solving throughout our curriculum. It is a Palestinian school in that over 90% of our students and staff are Palestinian. It is a Christian school owned today by Friends United Meeting based in Richmond, Indiana, USA. Friends United Meeting is a network of Yearly Meetings from communities in Kenya and others in Africa, Cuba, Jamaica, US and Canada. It is a Quaker school with its primary link with the Religious Society of Friends in the United States but also with strong links throughout the world but particularly among Friends in the UK and the rest of Europe.

  The concern of Friends School is to provide excellence in education, development of the whole person, a recognition of our responsibility to our community, nation and global family and a stand for equality before God regardless of gender, creed, culture, colour or social status.

  Our development program to date includes four projects which are designed to be of direct benefit to the community and to the school.

  1.   Kaykab Garden: An educational garden which houses a collection of Palestinian plants and eventually stories and songs associated with them. It is the centre for a popular "Green Roots" children's club based on education and service. It is an organic garden and has recently extended its concern to a Fruit and Vegetable model garden for the use of natural pesticides and fertilizers using techniques such as inter cropping to promote attraction/repulsion for helpful/harmful insects. It teaches composting and mulching as appropriate methods of gardening. This facility is designed as a resource for any school, youth activity, women's group in the town and surrounding villages for the promotion of these values and is already a popular venue and a recognised source of expertise. It is funded by the Heinrich Boll Institute, the American Friends Service Committee and has had substantial help from PECDAR. The planning and design of the project was the help and support of Birzeit University. This has been up and running for about two years.

  2.   Asha Buildings: The United States Aid program provides funds through ASHA (American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program) for some High School building projects. The latest to be successfully completed is a 1.8 million US$ investment providing an indoor basketball court and multi-purpose hall, a new library, two new computer suites and volunteer accommodation. These projects all completed with local architectural, engineering and building companies and are exemplar in terms of good design, cost efficiency and effectiveness according to USAID assessments. They are closely supervised by FUM and its local Director.

  Prior to this latest addition to the assets of the School, a Science Building, was completed successfully and opened by Senator Albright. Together these buildings, as well as having a school purpose, are seen as providing opportunities for the community, if not now then in the future, in terms of i: space for rent, ii: centres for training opportunities for teachers in use of information technology and providing iii: a specialist library with probably the best collection of current periodicals in Arabic and English in the West Bank.

  3.   Parent, Teacher, Child Centre: We have the land although not all that we would like. Plans are fast approaching completion. The final drawings are being prepared and a fund raising committee established. This project will commence with a model Kindergarten housing 160 children where the focus in the education provided is negotiated individual partnerships between parent, teacher and child in a child's education. This in its second stage will provide help provide placements for trainees in Kindergarten teaching and its third phase will partner local and international NGOs in the establishment of a centre for parent-child support (parenting) up to the age of seven years. This will include various trauma therapies, education for child development and psychological support services. This plan is developed in co-operation with Birzeit University. We need part funding for this project which will cost approximately 1.5 million US$. Much of the funding will come from Alumni.

  4.   Youth and Community Centre: We have the land. Plans are being made after an extensive consultation process for the design, funding and construction of a youth and community centre focussing on sport and physical recreational activities. The target group is aged 16-24 which is seen by our community representatives as being the age group now most in need of facilities. The building will provide an international size indoor heated swimming pool for the training of international athletes and for the benefit of the community. It will also house a bowling alley and possibly, if we can afford it, an indoor skate board facility. These community services will be income generating and completely self funding. The outside grounds area will include a running track, fitness circuit and possibly a football pitch on grass. This needs funding and the School will be looking at various combinations of commercial and grant funding alternatives. We would prefer a grant funded facility but may have to look at the commercial options.

  The school has proved itself a competent manager of international funds. It is audited by Price, Waterhouse, Coopers who are currently setting up an internal audit process of international standards. Please visit us and help us serve the community better by European investment.

August 2003

255   See Ev 249. Back

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