Palestinian teacher wins million-dollar global teacher prize

Hanan Al Hroub recognised with 'Nobel-style' award

Kaye Wiggins

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A Palestinian teacher who grew up in a refugee camp has won a million-dollar award dubbed the “Nobel Prize for teaching.”

Hanan Al Hroub, from Samiha Khalil School in the West Bank, was awarded the Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai today.

The award was announced by Pope Francis via a video link, and Ms Al Hroub beat candidates from the UK, Pakistan, Kenya, the USA, Japan, Finland, Australia and India. The prize recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

"An incident of this level elicits a long history of human struggle to achieve victory for the human being," she said after winning the prize. "I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular." 

"We, as teachers can build the values and morals of young minds to ensure a fair world, a more beautiful world and a more free world." 

Ms Al Hroub went into primary education after her children were left deeply traumatised by a shooting incident they witnessed on their way home from school.

She embraces the slogan ‘No to Violence’. She focuses on developing trusting, respectful, honest and affectionate relationships with her students and emphasises the importance of literacy. 

In an interview with TES last week, Palestine's education minister Dr Sabri Saidam said a victory for Ms Al Hroub would be the key to unlocking Palestine's potential. 

“If something of this magnitude happens, the world can no longer ignore the right for Palestinians to prosper and be free," he said. 

In a video message, Prince William congratulated all the prize's finalists. "A good teacher holds the power to influence, inspire and shape a young person's life for the better," he said. "They represent the key to real change in this world." 

Ms Al Hroub will receive $1m, about £630,000, and will be required to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, which runs the prize. She will also be required to remain working as a classroom teacher for at least five years, a condition of winning the prize.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said he hoped the award would “shine a light on the incredible work teachers do throughout the world every day.”

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