Rana Ziada

Al-Zahraa School, Gaza Strip, Palestine

Rana Ziada

In 2004 Rana started work as a teacher in the East Gaza area of Palestine, an area near the dividing line with the occupied territories. The area has been shelled more than once, making life there very difficult. During Rana’s time at the Abbas School, the school buildings have been severely damaged and she has lost many of her educational resources. Even after the war, her current school still suffers from lack of resources, overcrowded classrooms, 45 students per class, no electricity and no independent computer lab.

Rana loves her work and always wanted her students to love school and Mathematics, the subject she teaches. However, both her and her students face many challenges. In 2008, the first war in the Gaza Strip lasted 21 days. Those difficult days affected students negatively and slowed their level of academic progress. Because of the successive wars in the region, many students had psychological and health problems that required special treatment. During the second and third Gaza conflicts, there was further destruction in the school and many materials lost. Presently there are closed crossings, no trips for students, and no training courses for teachers. The school has electricity for only four hours a day.

One of Rana’s most important achievements was to raise the level of progress in mathematics, an improvement confirmed by the Ministry of Education through the follow-up of students’ grades. But even more impressively, Rana has brought schools together in a way that never happened previously. She was the first teacher to challenge the siege with an idea to employ the Webquest service to form educational groups through social networking. This allowed her and her students to exchange knowledge and skills with other areas outside the Gaza Strip. Communication makes the students feel that they belong to a world larger than the borders of Gaza, and Rana is now a trainer in the Directorate of Eastern Gaza to work on similar applications. Rana and her students also held the first exhibition of mathematics in the Gaza Strip, which was visited by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education and a large number of officials.

Prime Minister Dr. Rami Al-Hamdallah awarded Rana the State of Palestine Prize for Educational Creativity and Excellence in 2014. This year she was awarded the title of Best Palestinian Teacher – “The teacher who with her students challenged three wars in Gaza”. She is currently the Ambassador of the Elham Palestine Foundation in the Gaza Strip. If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Rana has a plan to use solar cells to bring education in the Gaza Strip out of the power crisis, which currently limits electricity use in schools to a small number of hours a day.