For Adam Halawani, being an instructor at a youth education center is not only an opportunity to make his students’ dreams come true, but a chance to live his own dream too.
The 23-year-old studied Computer Science and Creative Technologies in Saskatchewan, Canada, and hoped to one day teach video games and programming. Now, the training he received from World ORT Kadima Mada has made it possible for him to educate others in technological subjects.
His game development classes for fifth graders at the East Jerusalem Excellence Center are as satisfying for the teacher as for his students.
Adam (pictured in main image with his students at the Center) explained: “I love teaching and I also love the subject. I’m a gamer – video games are a huge part of my life. Some games can instill life skills that can be used in the workplace and in general. I’m trying to teach the children how to benefit from games and how to use that to their advantage.
“Today I taught 60 students how to use binary – something they likely will not learn in school. It helps them develop critical thinking, problem-solving and the mindset needed for their future.”
The East Jerusalem Excellence Center’s education programs and administration are managed by World ORT Kadima Mada – ORT’s arm in Israel – and funded by the Jerusalem Municipality as part of a five-year program to reduce disparities in educational opportunities for children. Students in Grades 4 to 6 choose from four study tracks, including app development and coding, and are guided by 18 dedicated staff members.
Opened in January 2021, center staff adapted to the need for online learning and then co-ordinated face-to-face learning when schools re-opened.
Student numbers increased rapidly, almost doubling from the first year to around 300 in the current academic year. All students are from local schools in East Jerusalem and are encouraged to attend courses at the center to develop their skills.
Among the most successful courses have been STEM subjects in which the students – many of whom are girls, learning under an almost exclusively female team of instructors – are encouraged to reach their goals. Individual students are encouraged to speak in front of class and present their learning as a way of developing their self-confidence. Subjects include science experiments, digital game development and a Makers course.
Naife Khaleleie Baidossi, Director of the East Jerusalem Excellence Center, said what makes the program special is the opportunities it offers the students – who in most cases have not had access to technology-based classes as part of their regular schooling.
With a Master’s degree in Science Technology teaching from the Technion, she also works on other projects in elementary schools in East Jerusalem serving 16,000 students.
“When I came to Jerusalem I observed the difficulties of living here, especially for those children from low socio-economic communities. This pushes me to do for them things they do not have in their daily classes. I find our center is providing a different experience and this is what motivates me,” she explained.
“Over the academic year we see real growth in understanding these subjects and increased ability to apply them in a practical way. There is also a social benefit: they meet new kids from other neighborhoods and become friends. We do not focus on the students’ differences or the politics of the place we live in, but rather on the learning.
“It is remarkable to see how our students learn many subjects they were not aware of before coming to the center. They also bring that knowledge back to their own schools.
“I feel education makes a person more open to other cultures. When they are successful they concentrate on how to be more successful and not on hating someone because he’s different. This increases their tolerance for others. We offer them a path to a good life and promising future.”
Adam’s future also looks bright – he will take part in World ORT’s LEAD program for future educational leaders who have demonstrated their potential. He has similarly high hopes for his students.
“I want to see them working in the creative tech field. It’s one of the fastest-growing markets and one of the biggest opportunities for employment. Technology is one of the most stable and reliable sources of income. I would love to see the students working with these skills.”