The Lajee Center Kindergarten
Arabic. Meaning: Refugee
Lajee Center is a Grassroots Center founded by refugees, for refugees. It was established in the year 2000 by a group of 11 young individuals from Aida refugee camp. Since then, Lajee has been serving the communities of Aida refugee camp, Beit Jibrin refugee camp and Al-Walaja village, located in and around the city of Bethlehem. The people served by the organisation consist of refugees who had fled their homes – 27 villages inside what is now Israel, in 1948 and 1967. As of 2019, approximately 7,500 residents live in the densely populated areas of Aida (0.71 km2) and Beit Jibrin camps (0.020 km2). As the occupation continues, the population grows while the perimeter stays the same. The camps are surrounded by city streets and apartheid walls and therefore, are prevented from spatially expanding outwards.
Lajee centre functions primarily through 5 main units: Environment, Health, Media, Education and Culture (Music and Dance). Programmes at Lajee support these refugee communities to improve environmental health and accessibility of healthcare, achieve water and food security, provide educational and recreational programmes for children and traineeships for recent college graduates.
Currently, the physical space for the Kindergarten is still being constructed. When fully developed the Lajee Center Kindergarten will provide pre-school education for 100 children from Aida and Beit Jibrin refugee camps. There will be four classes of mixed age groups: two classes of 3 to 4 year-old children and two classes of 4 to 5 year-old children. A child graduating from the Lajee Center Kindergarten will be prepared intellectually and socially to enter primary school and engage constructively with family and community.
Responding to needs, and taking into account present Covid-19 restrictions, the aim is to open the school in the Spring of 2021 and to expand the programme gradually as a full teaching team is assembled and trained. The school will be developed in two phases: Phase One will comprise a build-out of the ground floor of the existing building in which Lajee is located, to accommodate Classrooms 1 and 2 and a landscaped entrance courtyard; Phase Two will comprise a new building accommodating Classrooms 3 and 4 as well as offices for teachers and administration. At present, Beadlebug’s contributions will go towards the construction of the physical space of the Kindergarten.