June Junge, international coordinator and Anne Kristine Solberg Runestad, head of studies at the Department of Early Childhood Education have been part of the group hosting the visitors. They gave an introduction to the early childhood education programme at UiS and offered insight into the kindergarten in the Norwegian education landscape. In addition, the guests visited Jåttå kindergarten, which was recently named university kindergarten.
– It seems that the visitors from Nablus were quite impressed with the central role of play and outdoors activities in our kindergartens, June Junge says.
The kindergarten offer in Palestine is quite poorly established, and there is a need for strengthening both the Early Childhood Education programme at An-Najah National University and the professional competence in the existing kindergartens.
– We want to cooperate with our partner university in Nablus on exchanges of students and teachers. That is why we have joined a project application for funding from Erasmus+ Capacity Building to develop a continued professional development module for assistants already working in the kindergartens, Junge says.
The visitors also expressed a strong interest in cooperation with the Faculty of Health Sciences and to partner in developing possibilities for exchanges in nursing education programmes as well.
– We need specialization in nursing education. A big priority in Nablus is to establish a doctoral degree in surgical nursing, says Aidah Alkaissi, who is Head of Nursing and Midwifery at An-Najah.
Academic visits and activities
The An-Najah representatives also visited the partner school for teacher education practice at Gosen and also the SHARE centre, where they participated in a doctoral dissertation at SAFER.
On Wednesday 1. May the visitors were invited for breakfast to the Nablus Society of Stavanger, the partner coordinating and organizing the town twinning activities between Stavanger and Nablus. Later that evening drama professor Anna Songe-Møller invited the guests and their colleagues from UiS to dinner in her home. On Thursday the Deputy Mayor of Stavanger Bjørg Tysdal Moe invited the visitors for an informal networking dinner in Stavanger.
Enthusiastic about exchange
Anna S. Songe-Møller works as a drama professor at the Faculty of Arts and Education, and has for many years been active in the partnership between Stavanger and Palestine. She has organized three drama performances at An-Najah National University in Nablus, and coordinated the selection of students for Erasmus+ ICM grants who will be offered places in drama studies in Stavanger. She says that the cooperation is important because students completing drama studies at UiS learn methods they can bring back and use in a number of different settings.
– Many students have become important resources for their home university and the Palestinian society because of the knowledge and skills they acquired at UiS. They take responsibility, give English classes and use drama as a method to investigate and solve problems, Songe-Møller says.
From fiction to reality
Two years ago, upon returning from studies at UiS, Palestinian students put on a drama performance as their bachelor degree work. The University President who witnessed the performance became interested in drama becoming a part of the English programme degree.
– It is amazing when people understand the value of drama in education, says Songe-Møller, adding that training in fictitious situations develops relational competences and skills.
And relational skills is good to have when the bachelor’s degree in English language and literature at An-Najah now is soon offering a 30 ECTS drama minor programme. Teachers from UiS will provide guidance and teaching of drama. Students who have completed Erasmus+ ICM exchanges at UiS can also assist in the programme.
The visit was concluded with a performance by the UiS drama students in which body movement and body language was central. After the performance a productive conversation about the preparation for the performance and the students’ learning outcome. The ability the be present in the moment and exploring different ways of communication without verbal language were among the themes highlighted in the dialogue.
The road ahead
Since the start of the partnership there has much networking, and not this has been extended to the whole Faculty of Arts and Education as well as parts of the Faculty of Health Sciences. The goal is to increase exchange activities and build more pillars to strengthen the partnership. UiS and An-Najah are currently mapping further project funding opportunities in Erasmus+ and other funding schemes.
Text and photo: Ida Løkås
Translated by: Trym N. Holbek