When illness forces children and adolescents into long-term hospitalization, all too often their schooling is cut short. Addressing the opening of an exhibition on the SASA Setton Kav Or Initiative in Israel to provide tailored learning for hospitalized children, Director-General Irina Bokova affirmed that “every child, whatever their circumstances and background, must have access to quality education. This goes especially for children who are most vulnerable, children suffering from health troubles, undergoing prolonged stays in hospital.”
The exhibition, “Education without Borders,” organized by the Permanent Delegation of Israel to UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress, features photographs of hospitalized learning with advanced technology, at work and play with teachers and educators or following distance learning courses. Mr Robert Singer, Executive Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress, commended UNESCO for hosting this exhibition, which resonates deeply with the Organization’s ideals and principles of tolerance, peace and cooperation.
“This initiative benefits some thousands of children of all ages and all origins,” said Ms Bokova. “Each of these photographs tells a wonderful story of solidarity against isolation, of shared humanity on the basis of shared values. This is what we mean by education without borders – to provide every girl and boy with opportunities for quality learning.” She assured that UNESCO will continue to support initiatives across the region to advance education and fundamental human rights.
Speaking at the opening, the Founders of the SASA Setton Foundation, Ms Philippe and Hilda Setton, explained that the Initiative assists 10,000 children in 35 hospitals across Israel, giving them a sense of normalcy, nurturing their mind and spirit and helping them to deal with the trauma of hospitalization and to recover.
Dr Masad Barhoum, the first Arab-Christian Director of the Western Galilee Medical Centre, stated that “we provide education beyond borders of race, religion, ethnicity and nationality. This is the culture we want to instill to combat adversity through learning and face the future armed with understanding and adaptation.” He noted that the hospital treats Syrian refugees, one third of whom are women and children under 19. Sharing stories of children coping with leukemia, kidney transplants and other serious conditions, Dr Osnat Levtzion-Korach, Director of Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital, said that “this project promotes the multicultural communication that is so much needed and plants the seeds of peace.”
The opening included an address by the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Israel to UNESCO Mr Carmel Shama Hacohen who stressed the importance of the right to education regardless of religion or nationality. Moderating the opening ceremony, Mr Singer described the impact of the SASA Setton Kav Or Initiative, asserting that “integration is a cornerstone of healthy co-existence.” Thanking the organizers for the Initiative, the Director-General noted that UNESCO has cooperated with the World Jewish Congress over several decades to advance intercultural dialogue, to fight discrimination and anti-Semitism.