QUAKERS IN ACTION

Friends School Ramallah

The school founded by the Friends in Ramallah has played an important role in Palestinian education for over 120 years. In 1869 Friends started a number of small schools for girls in the villages around Ramallah, followed by the “Girls Training Home of Ramallah” in 1889. In the first year there were fifteen students from places as far away as Beirut and Jaffa, as well as from Ramallah.

In 1901 a boys’ training school was established, and although this was located on a separate site, the boys and girls had classes together for an hour and a half a week – an early initiative in co-education. Both schools were closed during the First World War, 1914 – 18, but reopened in 1919.

After the partition of Palestine in 1948, the school grew to cater for the refugees from the coastal areas taken over by Israel. It also raised money for needy families and expanded its scholarship fund. During the 1950s and early 1960s, the school enhanced its educational reputation and attracted students from all over the Middle East.

After the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, students from other countries were not able to attend the school, and the boarding facilities were closed. The number of day students gradually increased, and in 1990 the schools were reorganised, so that the girls’ school became the co-educational elementary and kindergarten school and the boys’ school the co-educational high school. Together they comprise Ramallah Friends School today.

The two Palestinian Intifadas (uprisings against the Israeli occupation) took their toll on the numbers of students in the school, but after the end of the uprisings, student enrolment has recovered. The school has maintained its reputation for academic excellence, and in 1999 it was accredited to offer the international baccalaureate, the only school in Palestine to achieve this distinction.

The Friends School today has almost 1200 students (kindergarten to pre-university), 90 teaching staff and about 40 support staff. Over 90% go on to further education at colleges and universities after leaving the school.

The life of the school is firmly based on Quaker principles, in particular:

  • Excellence in education: Quaker education calls for high academic standards and a willingness to experiment with new methodology and curricula.
  • Developing the whole person: each member of the school community is helped to realise his or her physical, mental, spiritual, and social potential.
  • Helping each person recognise her or his responsibility to society: each person should be aware of her or his responsibility as a caring member of the school, community, nation and global family where "each lives for the other and all live for God." The school nurtures character traits such as integrity, simplicity, honesty, cooperation and compassion, and advocates non-violence as a viable option for resolving conflict in every aspect of life.
  • Equality: all people are considered equal before God regardless of gender, creed, culture, colour or social status. Quaker education in Palestine has focused from the beginning on the education of women to develop their potential and realise their opportunity to be equal members of their community.

The school also has a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, including sports, drama, folk dancing, and organic gardening. Students are encouraged to become involved in the local community, visiting homes for disabled people and making gifts from their own pocket money.

Today all the students live in Palestine. Some 65% of students come from a Muslim background, and 35% from a Christian background. As there are now not many Quaker families in the Ramallah area, only a few students are Quakers. However the School’s Trustees are appointed by the Friends United Meeting, which is based in the United States.

The school fees range from USD 1,900 – 2,800, and the school has an extensive programme of financial assistance for students unable to afford these fees. The school wants a student body that is representative of Palestinian society and to which no student will be denied access for the sole reason that he or she cannot afford it. About 17% of students are supported by grants, which are funded by donations from Friends, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Further Reading and Credits

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