Palestinian winner of $1m teaching prize urges the UK to offer adequate support to refugee children

Hanan Al Hroub calls on the British government to ensure sufficient funding is in place after it decides to allow thousands of unaccompanied refugee children into the country

Teacher Hanan Al Hroub, who was born in a refugee camp in Bethlehem and went on to win the Varkey Foundation’s $1m Global Teacher Prize, has urged the UK to ensure there is adequate social service support and sufficient school places to cater for unaccompanied child refugees.

Ms Al Hroub (pictured) welcomed the government’s decision to allow the children into the country, but warned that many would be “traumatised” by what they had been through.

Psychological harm

“As I have experienced in my conflict-riven homeland, children who see conflict around them on a daily basis experience profound and deep-rooted psychological harm,” she said. “It is therefore crucial that the government puts in place measures that ensure that unaccompanied children that arrive in the UK have a safe, secure and loving environment.

“Local authorities, in particular, should not have to choose between providing social care for frail adults and supporting vulnerable refugee children.”

In May, prime minister David Cameron was forced to make a U-turn on the government’s refusal to accept unaccompanied child refugees after mounting criticism.

The move led the Local Government Association to warn that the extra children would lead to rising council tax bills unless the government provided more money.

Ms Al Hroub won the Global Teacher prize for her “play and learn” technique, which she uses to help traumatised Palestinian primary school children. She said that her own experiences had shown her that refugee children needed to be taught more than just the numeracy and literacy.

“The role of education for refugee children is not only to teach them to read and write, it is also to give them the resilience and persistence they need to deal with what they have experienced, and to avoid repeating the violence they have witnessed,” she said.

Focus on the positive

In March, Ms Al Hroub became the second teacher to pick up the $1m teaching prize, and she urged pupils and parents in the UK to nominate their favourite teacher for next year’s competition.

“Often, when UK education is in the news, it focuses on negative stories, from overtesting to failing schools to bad behaviour,” she said. “Though these issues are important, the bigger story we’re missing is the incredible work being done by UK teachers up and down the country that is making a difference to the lives of countless children every day.

“I therefore encourage parents and pupils to think about the positive teacher role models here in the UK that are the real foundation for a great education. Without their human intervention, innovation and inspiration, nothing great can be achieved.”

The shortlist for this year’s Global Teacher Prize had a UK representative, with maths teacher Colin Hegarty making the final 10.

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