The Netivim Program – an innovative program for the development of informal education in the Bedouin Society

תכנית נתיבים בחברה הבדואית

The Netivim Program was developed in order to address a need for professionals in the field of informal education in the Bedouin Society and for the purpose of cultivating graduates that have a professional and value oriented perspective.

The program awards a bachelor degree in education and a teaching certificate in Geography for the higher grades. The program is geared towards the development of environmental leadership; educators who possess a coherent approach to social-environmental issues and who will initiate and lead processes of social change. The program operates in the Kaye Academic College in Beer Sheba.

We sat down to interview Bousina El-finish,  a “greenhouse” facilitator of first and second year students, a lecturer in the Netivim Program, a member of the leadership team and responsible for the Netivim Center.  Bousina is a resident of Rahat, married, and a mother to three sons and one girl.

Q:  Bousina, please tell us about the program and the profile of the students studying in the program?

A: The program was launched last year and is designated for students from the Bedouin society. The students study for 4 years and receive a B.A. in education and a teaching certificate in Geography and informal education. In addition, they receive a certificate in Social Leadership from the Democratic Institute.

The students are from the Bedouin village Rahat and from other, more or less known Bedouin villages in the south. There are more female students than male students with a total of 80 students studying in the first and second years of the program.

Q: How do you see your role in the program?

A:  I find the role of “greenhouse” facilitator very challenging. I have to support the students emotionally and treat them with much sensitivity. They are going through a very important process in which a shift in their thinking is taking place as well as a process of development and empowerment on a personal and group level. The students are an excellent target population for the future development of the Bedouin society in the south, they are the ones who will lead to social, economic and educational change and who will eventually leave their mark on cultural perception in the Bedouin society. The students are going through a process of democratic change in the “greenhouse” program which is not easy for them as they are not used to these types of interaction and dialogue.  These students grew up in a very tough and closed society. Let’s begin with the fact that they are studying in a mixed group of men and women. In addition, their studies are experiential and encourage active learning, many norms that are difficult for them.

Q: Do you notice any change in the students you teach?

A: With first year students it’s harder to tell but with second year students I feel there is a fundamental change in them and I see dramatic improvement in their educational and democratic thinking

The aspect of informal education is new and innovative to them. It’s important to understand that these students never experienced informal education, neither in the schools they learned in, nor during after-school time, yet they have come to study informal education.  As to their formal education, the curriculum usually given to the schools they learned is planned for the Jewish society and then adapted to suit the Bedouin society. There was never a curriculum planned specifically for this target group.

A Bedouin child gets out of school at 15:00. In the best case scenario he or she will experience a “peak day” or a specific “social program” (that is a kind of a substitute for informal education).  The children have no communal anchors and no place for recreational activities. This is why there is so much violence and so many accidents among these children – and there is no solution in sight.

Q: Nevertheless, what does exist in the field of informal education in the Bedouin society?

A: As a resident of Rahat, I can tell you that we have an operating youth center that also has after school activities, but this center cannot absorb all of the school’s children. Furthermore, the activities are carried out by people who are not professional or experienced. As I stated before, these are people who have never experienced informal education as children themselves.

The first “recreational group activity” (known in Hebrew as a “chug”) in the whole southern region was established 11 years and was then called a “program” and not a “chug” due to the fact that this term was not even known in the Bedouin society at the time.

Q:  How does one bridge the gap between what these students study and the fact that they themselves didn’t experience any kind informal education as children?

A: The students do an internship in informal education as well as in formal education. We also try to provide them with the experience of informal education as adults, the experience they missed as children. In addition, the methods of study implemented in our educational training are experiential, dialogical and are oriented towards collaborative group activities that take place outside of the formal classroom – not traditional teaching methods.This year we collaborated with various field organizations such as “Ajeec” and next year we hope to create two centers in the south on our own, centers in which the students will be able to gain experience and that will provide an array of services of informal education under one roof and with the ability to absorb many children.

Thank you Bousina. We wish you much success in your important mission!