Hanan al-Hroub wins global teaching prize worth one million dollars at the height of a mass strike by Palestinian teachers for higher salaries and better terms.
Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian teacher from Bethlehem, won $1 million for her work promoting nonviolence through learning on Sunday night. Al-Hroub, who teaches in both the West Bank city of al-Bireh and Dheisheh refugee camp, was given the second annual Global Teacher prize at a ceremony in Dubai. Palestinian television stations broadcasted the competition, along with the celebrations that took place in Ramallah following the announcement.
Over 8,000 teachers from across the world competed for the prize; 50 made it to the final rounds, among them three Palestinian teachers. The final 10 also included teachers from several European countries, Kenya, Pakistan, India, the United States, Australia, and Japan.
Al-Hroub’s won the prize for her work in developing a method to educate students exposed to violence to embrace dialogue and nonviolence in a reality of violent, continual occupation. In a video produced for the competition, al-Hroub explains the difficulty of educating children toward nonviolence when they live in a reality where death and arrests are daily occurrence. Alongside the monetary prize, al-Hroub also received worldwide exposure, which included a congratulatory video message from the Pope and Prince William.
Despite the celebrations, however, al-Hroub does not receive the proper recognition — nor a decent wage — just like all other Palestinian teachers in the West Bank. Ironically, the best teacher in the world is part of an educational system that was completely shut down due to a strike last month over teachers’ terms of employment in the Palestinian Authority. Tens of thousands of teachers demonstrated at the beginning of the month, and over 200,000 students not attended school since February 10th. Only on Sunday, following promises to raise teacher salaries (and without any connection to al-Hroub’s win), did the strike come to an end.
Palestinian teachers are demanding standard terms for all public service employees, including a raise (the current salary for a starting teacher in the Palestinian Authority is NIS 1,700). The teachers are also demanding equal retirement benefits for women, and democratic elections for the General Union of Palestinian Teachers.
Immediately following her win on Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah praised both al-Hroub and teachers in general. At the height of the strike, however, Hamdallah was quoted as responding to the teachers’ demands by stating that “we will be able to meet these demands when we find oil and gas in Ramallah and Gaza.” Hamdallah also refused to meet with the teachers union, claiming that they do not represent the general federation, which is elected by the PLO and reached a deal with the education minister, which did not meet the demands of the teachers.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.