Throughout Israel70, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is hosting a year-long speaker series called Israeli Change Makers, in which social innovators from Israel will share their insights on topics at the heart of contemporary cultural conversations. Join us at Gratz College on Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m. to hear from revolutionary educator Dalia Fadila. This program is supported by the Harry Stern Family Institute for Israel Studies at Gratz College.
“In the Arab system of education in Israel, who makes up 99.999 percent of teachers? Women. 100 percent of the cleaners? Women,” said Dalia Fadila, director of Al-Qasemi College for Science and Engineering and founder of Q-Schools. “But the headmaster is a man. The vice headmaster is a man. The parent committees are made up of fathers.”
This disparity was on her mind in the early 2000s when, while helping her fifth-grade daughter read a collection of stories for homework, Fadila was upset to find few stories featuring female protagonists. Her conclusion? “The paradigm has to be broken, and immediately.”
With a Ph.D. in literature, Fadila saw books as her opportunity to do just that. She wrote her own collection of schoolbooks, with equal representation of male and female characters, and in which the female characters aren’t assigned exclusively to the roles of mothers performing housework — an image of the “good Arab woman,” said Fadila, who is Arab-Israeli, “which leaves no time for career, self-fulfillment, expression, politics or entrepreneurship.”
Through her books, she wanted to help Arab children develop their own identities while also preparing them to advance in a global society. But when it came time to distribute her books, Fadila was struck with another idea: “In order for these books to be used, there was a need for an educational institution,” she said.
So she created her own. In 2008, Fadila founded Q-Schools, designed to educate Arab students in English language skills and civic engagement. Today, more than 2,000 students are enrolled full-time in seven locations: Fadila’s hometown of Tira, Israel; Nazareth; Jaljulia; Tayibe; East Jerusalem; Ramallah; and Amman, Jordan. In 2014, Fadila also founded a bilingual preschool in Tira.
“Education is the basis of economic development,” Fadila said, adding that her goal is, ultimately, to help create a new generation of Arab students — male and female — ready to dictate their own futures as citizens of the world.
“Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own,” she said, summarizing her ambition for societal change. “I think a room is not enough, ladies.”
RSVP at jewishphilly.org/dalia to hear Fadila discuss her work serving simultaneously as director of Al-Qasemi College for Science and Engineering, founder of Q-Schools and the Knesset’s official adviser on matters of education for Israel’s Arab society.