Edward Said's school for the soul

Edward Said's school for the soul
5 min read
06 September, 2016

At the Edward Said institute for music, in Gaza city, more than 10 juvenile musicians, were playing and listening attentively to their music professor, as the new school year has recently begun.

Professor Ismail Dawood , the little musicians' teacher, was instructing and pronouncing some special rhymes and the musicians , were repeating, each with the help of his or her musical instrument.

" I have been here at the school for the past six years, performing and enjoying my hobby. Actually, when I joined the Edward Said music school, I was about to select the Piano to train at. Yet, I changed my mind and opted for the Chilo. Why Chilo?, Chilo is an instrument that performs either eastern or western music. With respect to the Western music, I like to play some sophisticated rhymes of Mozart. The first song I played, using Chilo was Enta Omry, a classical song, performed first by giant Arab-Egyptian singer, late Om Kolthom", Jawana Saba, a 16-year-old student with the Edward Said Institute for music in Gaza, told the New Arab, after having just finished her afternoon class.

Violin's player , Mohammad Helles, has been a school child, over the past 4 years. He is now 16-year-old and is expected to graduate, four years later.

"When I was 12-year-old, my parents helped bring me a violin to practice my musical talent. When we heard about this school, I joined right away. In here, I enjoy playing to the fullest, as I am receiving a very special education that would enable me to be a famous well-qualified performer in the future. Actually, I hope that I will be able to join a musical college in Palestine", Mohammad Helles, a violin player, told the New Arab at his class room for music, at Edward Said Institute for music, the Gaza branch.

Not only music,,

At the same institute, students receive special education as to how they will be able to sing well. Among those students is Najlaa Ehmaid, a 13-year-old girl, from Gaza City. Najlaa receives singing education, with the help of Professor Ismail Dawood. Her singing talent has been recently spread in London, where Najlaa participated in a London-based festival, organized by pro-Palestinian solidarity activists, in the British city.

"Prior to joining this great school, I was able to show off my talent at the primary and elementary schools in Gaza. I love some special songs like those of Maher Zein, the famous young spiritual international singer. Also, I like to sing some classical songs, like those of giant Egyptian late singer, Om Kolthom. Besides the singing education, I also use the famous eastern instrument of lute or Aud. At this school, I was able to learn how to make my singing sounds really sophisticated and clear. Thanks for my teacher Ismail, in particular and for the music school, in general", Najlaa Ehmaid told the New Arab, after having sung part of Oh, Jerusalem, by the veteran famous Lebanese singer, Fayrouz.

A promising school,,

Professor Ismail Dawood, teacher of music at the Edward Said Institute for music in Gaza city, told the New Arab that the Edward Said School is something promising in the territory. " Actually, I left Tunisia about five years ago in order to help my citizens have a better musical education. In Tunisia, I taught music for Tunisian musical institutes for more than 10 years. My people deserve attention, in terms of music. Basically, what we teach here , with the help of 10 other teachers, including five female ones, is something rare in the coastal territory", Professor Ismail Dawood, holder of MA of musical studies, told the New Arab, following his class, at the Edward Said Institute for music in Gaza city.

Asked by the New Arab as to how musical teaching is going in Gaza, Dawood responded by saying " Though the situation here in Gaza is pretty difficult, I can say that the level of our students is considered good, compared with that in some other much-less troubled countries, around. This summer, a group of our students participated in a London-based festival of Chorus, in which they performed quite well and attracted the audiences over there. A similar Chorus festival was held later on, in Gaza, and thirty students competed with some other international juvenile musicians. They all impressed the audiences".

Eight years of education,,

At the Edward Said Institute that is located in Gaza city's Tal Alhawa neighborhood, Mr. Ibrahim Alnajjar, a veteran leading Gaza musician, is in charge of the entire school. Alnajjar has been very looking forward to having the school developed, but the school is dependent on generous supports by some local and international bodies.

" Back in 2008, when we inaugurated the school, in cooperation with the Alqattan Foundation for children in Gaza, we had about 25 students and few teachers. As of today, 2016, we have 210 registered students, with about 14 staff members. In 2012, the Gaza music school, was turned into Edward Said Institute for music, the branch name of the same organization in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Our education here begins every afternoon around the week and lasts for four hours, a day. Our students should complete eight years of education and we receive students who are 10 years-old. Actually, we charge each student about 250 dollars, a year, while the actual cost is 1200 dollars. We depend mainly on generous financial supports from Anira , an American organization, the Palestine Bank in Gaza and the West Bank and a famous leading Palestinian commercial group, called CCC. Sometimes, we receive some funds from Norway and Sweden", Ibrahim Alnajjar, principal of the Gaza-based Edward Said Institute for Music, told the New Arab.

The man added that 80 enrolled students, who cannot afford the designated tuition fees, have been receiving education for free. "Those students are really talented ones, who deserve attention", Alnajjar maintained.

A new prospect,,

According to the institute's principal, Ibrahim Alnajjar, the Edward Said Institute for music has recently agreed with the Beir Zeit University in the West Bank, that graduates of the institute can join the university's music department, without any restrictions, once a given student proves to be talented.

Since 2007, when the Islamist Hamas party took over Gaza and Israel imposed a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave, ordinary government-run schools in Gaza, stopped offering music classes for school children. The Edward Said Institute for Music in Gaza, remains the sole outlet for such a musical education in the occupied Gaza Strip.