A Palestinian school teacher on Sunday became the recipient of a US$1m international award for her work with children — and it was Pope Francis who announced the winner.
“A population that is not well educated because of wars, or by other reasons that exist in order not to get any education, is a population that decays,” the Pope said in a pre-recorded video message announcing Hanan Al Hroub as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize, awarded by the Varkey Foundation.
“That is why I would like to highlight the noble profession of a teacher.”
A teacher in the West Bank, Hroub was awarded the Global Teacher Prize for her specialization in working with children exposed to violence at a ceremony held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' largest city.
Detailed in her book We Play and Learn, Hroub's methods at the Samiha Khalil Secondary School have led to a decrease in violent behavior among children living in the volatile region, according to the Global Teacher Prize website.
“A child has the right to play,” the Pope said in the video message. “Part of education is to teach children how to play, because you learn how to be social through games, and you learn the joy of life.”
"I would like to congratulate the teacher Hanan Al Hroub for winning this prestigious prize due to the importance she gives to the role of play in a child’s education,” he said.
Having grown up in a Bethlehem refugee camp where she regularly witnessed violence, Hroub now teaches at a school in the town of al-Bireh, about 14 miles north of Jerusalem.
She was partly inspired to work in this field after her own children were traumatized after witnessing a shooting.
Hroub told the Associated Press: "I feel amazing and I still can't believe that the Pope said my name."
"For an Arab, Palestinian teacher to talk to the world today and to reach the highest peak in teaching could be an example for teachers around the world."
The primary school teacher told the agency she intends to use the money to create scholarships for students who excel.