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Palestinian wins $1mn 'global teacher' award for anti-violence project

Hanan al-Hroub presented with award in Dubai for school programme that reduces violence by encouraging play among children
Hanan al-Hroub said she accepted the award for all Palestinian teachers (Varkey Foundation)

A Palestinian teacher from the West Bank has won a $1mn award for her innovative approach of using play to counter violent behaviour.

Hanan al-Hroub, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem and now teaches at a school in the West Bank, was awarded the Global Teacher award at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday.

Wearing a traditional Palestinian dress and black veil, Hroub was hailed by world leaders at the ceremony for the Nobel-style award, set up two years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation.

Detailed in her book We Play and Learn, Hroub's approach has "led to a decline in violent behaviour in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence," the foundation said in a statement.

Hroub works with children who have grown up exposed to violence at Samiha Khalil High School in al-Bireh in the occupied West Bank.

"I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage," a jubilant Hroub said.

"I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular.

"We can teach children to be effective and inventive through various contexts which include entertainment, drawing and movement," Hroub said after she was awarded the prize.

"We need to help children with questioning, dialogue, thinking and feeling to help them express themselves." 

Video messages from Pope Francis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Vice President Joe Biden, the UK's Prince William and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were broadcast at the ceremony.

The foundation, set up by Dubai-based education entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.

In a statement, Varkey said he hoped Hroub's story "will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Palestine and throughout the world every day."