The Palestinian woman who this week won a $1 million “World’s Best Teacher” award returned home Wednesday and pledged to use part of her winnings to help students and educators.
Hanan al-Hroub, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem and now teaches at a school near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, was awarded the Global Teacher prize at a Nobel-style ceremony in Dubai on Sunday.
She received congratulations from Pope Francis, who announced the winner in a video message.
Upon her arrival back in the West Bank, Hroub, carrying her golden trophy, looked amazed at the reception she was given in the city of Jericho.
She said she wants to offer scholarships to encourage students to become teachers.
Hroub also wants to help finance teaching programmes that adopt her methods.
Describing her philosophy, she said it was important for students to learn through play.
“Through planned and educational play, change will come,” she said.
She said behavioural improvement coincides with educational achievement, adding that when a child is behaving badly, playfulness is the best approach.
“Through playing, a student is entertained at the same time as learning,” she said.
Detailed in her book “We Play and Learn”, Hroub’s approach has “led to a decline in violent behaviour in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence,” the Varkey Foundation, which organises the award, said in a statement on Sunday.
Hroub, a second-grade teacher in a school in Al-Bireh near Ramallah, is not teaching in normal circumstances.
Palestinian teachers regularly complain their students have behavioural problems, particularly when exposed to violence.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
Hroub said she had noticed huge differences in children who have seen or been subjected to violence.
“This is an obstacle in the classroom and we were able to change their lives at home and at school.”
Palestinian education minister Sabri Saidam called Hroub a “message of peace”.
He said Hroub’s victory was a message to Israel that the “current situation has to end”.
The $1 million award is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.