Schools are more than buildings where young people receive education. They are the blueprints for preparing future generations as they hold the promise of being humane and effective places for learning. No one can deny that schools help establish communities whose manners, ideas and concepts, rules and regulations, values, and criteria are all derived from the larger society. To have those effective communities functioning in schools, supporting students academically and psychologically must be the driving force; a very important and difficult task which can be accomplished through the team-effort of all of those involved in school; the school board and the principal.
Over the years, children who do not do well in schools have been variously labeled as "low-achievers" or "below-level" students and more recently "at risk". No matter which label is applied to them, the fact remains that if these student's needs are not addressed, both the students themselves and society will reap the harvest (Snow, 2005). Many researches have gradually become more interested in examining the characteristics and the techniques meant to support the students at risk. Ormord (2008) indicated that students at risk can be identified as the ones who are not experiencing success in school and are potential dropouts. He also pointed that they are those who have a high probability of failing to acquire minimal academic skills necessary for success in the adult world. Consistently, Edward (2004) mentioned that at risk students are usually low academic achievers who exhibit low self-esteem and are apt to create discipline problems. In addition, students at risk, especially those who eventually drop out, usually have a history of poor academic achievement going back to the early stages of education. Therefore, they usually show profile of low grades and obtain lower achievement test scores which make them more likely repeat a grade level so they become older than their classmates (Ormord,2008). Quite possibly, that makes them tend to lack any psychological attachments to school or even to perceive themselves as a vital part of the school community.
Understanding the problem of students' dropout requires looking beyond the limited scope of individual student characteristics to include school factors, curriculum, classroom atmosphere and teacher's role in students' decisions to stay in or leave school. Knesting (2008) states that "a sole focus on internal student characteristics may allow schools to escape having to confront the dropout issue" . For this reason, it is important to look at how student persistence can be scaffolded in a comprehensive school atmosphere. On the other hand, community environments of poverty, family substance abuse, domestic violence, and other chaotic family situations can impact students at home and at school (Robertson, L. & Harding, M, 2005). Therefore, a great deal of attention must be given to the impact systems, policies, teachers and principals may have on student's decisions to drop out or success in school. (Knesting, 2008).
It is well-known that there is no single strategy to keep all students at risk in school until graduation (Ormord,2008). Nevertheless, effective classroom practices and activities go a long way in helping these students stay on the path of academic success and school graduation. First, a supportive school and classroom should be created; if a sense of belonging is to be created in the school, students may not leave school prior graduation. By taking into consideration that schools have the ability to contribute to students' early school drop out, so then schools will have the potential to contribute to students' persistence to high school graduation. (Ormord, 2008). Furthermore, some kind of adaptations to the curriculum must be carried out; it must be relevant to students' cultural values, life experiences and personal needs.
Students at Risk under Occupation: The Case of Palestine
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the existence of human beings is worthless without education. Education is essential to the preservation and success of any society, including that of the Palestinians. Since the birth of a Jewish state in 1948 and the subsequent expropriation of Palestinian lands in Israel, Palestinians have turned increasingly toward education as a leading means for personal and social survival (Van Dyke & Randall, 2002). However, Palestinians as students have not controlled their own educational destiny for over 50 years ( Hayford, 2007). This lack of control has been a major barrier to the Palestinians because education is crucial to their future as a people and nation.
The Arab Israeli conflict of 1948 and the subsequent establishment of the state of Israel resulted in the dispossession and displacement of two-thirds of the Palestinians people, who became refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the surrounding countries (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and other countries). The Israeli army for alleged security reasons prevented the return of internally displaced Palestinians to their homes. To provide emergency aids for Palestine refugees who lost all means of livelihood in Palestine, the United Nations of Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was founded by the UN General Assembly Resolution. Based on the UNRWA's statistics in 1998 half of the population in Palestine is under 18 years old, and about 30 percent are students in basic and higher education. Some 39 percent of the population in the West Bank is refugees, of whom 26 percent still live in 19 refugee camps (Gillian & Hunt, 2003).
Generation of refugee children and young people in the West Bank have been deeply affected by forced migration and prolonged conflict as many researchers have reported.( Fronk, Huntington, & Chadwick, 1999) This happened mainly because of the conditions that the country passed through, including Israeli occupation and its consequences which can resembled in the scarcity of water resources, home destructions, construction of Israeli settlements and bypass roads, violence and imprisonment (Toronto,2008) As a result, physical, social, economic and psychological aspects of daily Palestinian life and the education of their children have been affected. (Alzaroo & Hunt, 2003).
The destruction of educational infrastructure has been one of the most serious setbacks Palestine faced. Schools, students and teachers are the deliberate targets during the occupation. The main problem with regard to the right to education in Palestine flows from violations of the right to freedom of movement. Israeli movement restrictions toward students and teachers take many forms, notably physical barriers which are viewed in checkpoints and road blocks, curfews and travel prohibitions and school closures. ((Alzaroo & Hunt, 2003).
Checkpoints and road blocks can be considered as one of risk factors associated with Palestinian students. The checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the occupied West Bank, estimated to be over 700, are placed between Palestinian towns and villages, between villages and highways, and at times, multiple roadblocks are placed between refugee camps, villages, and towns. That action of indignity and torture led most Palestinians to conclude that the purposes of the "little hills" of dirt, movable spiked anti-tire barriers, and concrete blocks that are placed on roads used only by Palestinians, are there not to protect Israelis as much as to humiliate and harass the Palestinian civilian population for no noticeable security reasons (Ricks, 2006).
Under the Israeli occupation, the internal closure system has become increasingly institutionalized. Inevitably the school closures and climate of fear have had a harmful effect on the quality of education; it has been impossible to make up the missing days of schooling, and teachers have had to concentrate on the basics and cut out most extracurricular activities. The lost time has made it difficult to maintain achievement levels, but the trauma suffered by students has also affected their concentration. In a study conducted in 2003, students explained that it was because " we lost our interest in studying and became more interested in watching the news'' (Halstead & Affouneh, 2006,).
Curfew is the most extreme form of closure, confining inhabitants of the area under curfew to their homes for extended periods of time. When Israel applies a curfew upon Palestinians it is total, comprehensive and unannounced (Hussein, 2002). Businesses close, schools dismiss, government offices lock their doors, pharmacies are closed, and medical services are, for all intent and purpose, inaccessible to the public. During curfews, it is impossible for students to access their educational institutions. In areas and during periods where curfews are common, education is affected in an extremely disruptive way. Therefore, the nerve-racking reality that schools and universities will be disrupted for yet another year is indescribable (Halstead & Affouneh, 2006).
Israeli assaults on educational institutions in Palestine include raids on their premises, physical attacks with destruction of facilities, targeting of teachers and closure or occupation of buildings (Hussien, 2003). These attacks and instances of destruction have an obvious disruptive effect on the educational process . It is recorded that attacks on schools in Palestine are a common occurrence. According to Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), there have been over 300 physical attacks on buildings devoted to education during the second intifada which started in September 2000. (Alzaroo & Hunt, 2003). Such attacks also target United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools and MEHE itself. Moreover, military incursions whether limited to arrest or assassinate activates or on large scale-campaigns disarray schooling and spread terror among students .The effects of those campaigns range from spreading fear among kids to suffering from direct damage to school properties or facilities (Affouneh, 2007).
Efforts of teachers and administrators to keep schools open have ensured that most students remain in school, although the numbers vary significantly and quickly depending on changes in the political climate. School attendance drops due to several reasons including the high level of violence in a particular area, as parents prefer to keep their children at home for their safety, therefore, education becomes less important than their safety from that chronic violence. In addition, the problem of the total or night time curfew makes the attendance remain low since parents are concerned about the possibility of violence. Moreover, school teachers and staff are frequently unable to get from home to work because of destroyed roads, checkpoints, or road closures (Fronk, 1999).
In a recent article conducted by Catherine Hill , she argues that 'educators everywhere bear a moral imperative to provide opportunities for children to reclaim hope, reintegrate socially, learn well, reflect deeply, and act justly' (2005, p. 155). She sets out some of the ethical principles on which psychosocial recovery programs should be based including human rights, non-discrimination, best interests of the child, values and culture, child participation, family and community long-term commitment and continuity and partnership. Hill argues that by following the above-mentioned principles, education for survival and development 'can create a zone of safety and security for children' and can 'contribute to trauma healing' (Hill, 2005, p. 162).
On the other hand, the key to success lies in the capacity of schools to foster resiliency in their children. Resiliency includes such things as resourcefulness, curiosity, conviction of one's right to survive, a goal to live for, and an 'affective repertory' , for example ,the ability to laugh and to experience some measure of well-being in knowing one is loved and cared for. (Hussien, 2002).
Hussien (2002) argues that these things can contribute to healing and recovery from trauma. Therefore, Palestinian students may find it hard to retain their personal identity in times of sustained conflict. They may become depressed, violent or overwhelmed with negative feelings.
In conclusion, students are exposed to various kinds of risk factors some of which attributed to the students themselves in addition to others that are affiliated to schools environments. Those risks endanger and curtail the future of students and may eventually force them out of school. As they are different due to various factors such as social class, ethnic background, race and culture, there is no one definite class instruction, pedagogical approach or methodological strategy that can address the diverse needs of students belong to miscellaneous cultures. Therefore, we should design our curriculum and instructional strategies to satisfy the diversity challenges and requirements in our schools. It is perceived that those theories are applicable to students all over the world. Moreover, the challenge is more demanding in regions which prone to conflicts and struggles. There, the students are exposed to the challenges other students encounter in addition to the challenges imposed by the occupation power or even the ethnic as well as civil war clashes.
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Identifying the "At Risk" Student: What is the Concern ?
Â© 2004 Edward G. Rozycki, Ed. D.
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I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a
I have eight children.
I get them bread,
Garments and books
from the rocks.
I do not supplicate charity at your
Nor do I belittle myself
at the footsteps of your chamber
So, are you angry?
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