Hiba Anis Mustafa Shurafa guides students in her Gaza classroom, instructing them on the art of how to hold a pen and keep a steady hand when writing out letters. She understands the task is challenging because, like her students, Shurafa has Down syndrome.
The 27-year old teacher at the Right to Life Society school in Gaza City was once a student at the institution where she now instructs pupils with mental disabilities. Researchers at Bir Zeit University found that among Palestinians with disabilities in the occupied territories and Lebanese refugee camps, more than one-third never attend school. A further 87 percent will never be employed, making Shurafa and the Right to Life Society all the more unique.
Her courses cover the arts, specializing in Palestinian handicrafts. She has also led mathematics and writing classes. Out of the school room, Shurafa supervises on the playground.
“I help the [main] teacher in the class, I let children write on their books,” Shurafa told Mondoweiss. “I’m sure they are happy with me, I write for them on the board and they interact and respond with me.”
For the youngsters studying with Shurafa, her career is a model of successes. “I motivate and strengthen students, giving them lollipops, balloons, and candy,” she said, “for example, I take a child alone and to teach writing and to let him know how to hold a pencil, enabling hand’s muscles to respond the pencil in the right way.”