PALESTINE – Once again this summer, camps in French language blossom in Palestine. Indeed, the children have three months of holidays because of the summer heat. Most of them stay and do not travel or do not even have the possibility to do so. Camps are organized in Arab schools, where Coordinators coming from France and children gather for one or two weeks in order to learn the language and to discover the culture in a playful way.
For about twenty years, camps in French language have been organized every summer in Palestinian schools, from Nablus to Bethlehem passing by Jerusalem. They aim at giving another image of French language, more modern and alive. These camps are encouraged by the Barnabé network, which was created in 2006 and promotes Francophonie in the Holy Land through various initiatives. “Promoting French language and culture through those projects and summer camps, rather than through books and lessons, is a good way to give a child a liking for French”, says Alice de Rambuteau, a coordinator of the Barnabé network. It is a difficult mission for a language in decline in the region. Indeed, the hours of French lessons are reduced and it is not even possible to have it as an option for Tawjihi1, which does not constitute a strong motivation for the pupils. They are encouraged to focus on the subjects in their curriculum.
In Taybeh, a Christian village east of Ramallah, the 19th summer session in French language takes place. Furthermore, for three years, this session has been divided into two: a week for 30 children then two weeks for 80 teenagers. The four French sisters of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem organize this camp inside the Latin Patriarchate school of the village. They combine school work and activities in order for the children to immerse themselves in the language and to make it live. Every day, children sing in French, listen to popular tales, then they spend some time in class, either to recapitulate their knowledge or to prepare the DELF (French Certificate). Indeed, the few hours of French lessons they have each week are not sufficient to really improve their knowledge. The diversity of the program allows children to understand the language in different ways and to awaken the love of French in them. This organisation is the fruit of a long preparation work from the sisters who devote part of their year to create games for those children that are so full of life. For each activity, costumes and accessories are furnished in order to make it more attractive. Moreover, as children come back every year, themes must be renewed; this year it will deal with the circus.
In the meantime, the first session of a French summer camp occurred at the Latin Patriarchate school of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. The French volunteers organized this camp by themselves, taking inspiration of the scout pedagogy. Children are divided into teams led by a “leader”, a teenager more or less mastering French language and thus able to translate for the youngest. After some exercise and a morning gathering with the recitation of Our Father prayer, the children start their activities, alternating between sports, art and cooking. Also, they cooked crepes for their parents invited to a farewell dinner.
Volunteers came especially from France to supervise this camp. They allow children to have an embodied image of France and promote a culture of meeting between French and Palestinians. Thus, exchanges work both ways. Indeed, the young French people were able to discover the region with the young Palestinians and were invited to have lunch with the families. A strong experience also for the animators who experienced a sudden and complete change of scenery, who discover, besides a new country, different behaviors and ways of educating the children.