Ayn ‘Arik is a Palestinian ancient town in the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate, located 7 kilometers west of Ramallah in the northern West Bank. The town had a population of 1,567 inhabitants in 2007. There are two churches located in the village, and one mosque that has the tallest minaret in all of Palestine. Couvent Saint-Etienne. The majority of its inhabitants are Muslims, however, there is a sizable Christian community. The village is a model co-existence between Muslim and Christian. The town is very poor by current Palestinian standards. There are few services available from the government and the town has no water lines, telephones, etc.
The town is very poor, but has an abundance of water and supports some agriculture that provides income for those landowners. There are few businesses in the town and unemployment is high. The school is one of the major assets of the town and provides jobs for people. As in other areas of the West Bank unemployment is quite high. The town is far from the point of able to provide jobs for residents. They must travel to nearby Ramallah or other areas for employment opportunities.
Children and teenagers have known only a life described by psychologist as that resembling the experience of children in war zones. The schools have become the social institution for repairing the lives of the young. They are challenged in a way not know in the past when families were strongly close knit and protective of their children. This breakdown of the extended family structure has resulted in schools having to shoulder the task of caring for children in a way that in the past was the duty of the family.
The Latin Patriarchate:
The Latin Patriarchate school in Ain Arik was begun in 1858 and is in the heart of the town. The Christian schools in this era were the first to become the educators of the poor and for girls. These schools were very important in that they provided a natural venue for children of the two major religions to grow up together. This produces considerable unity and friendship especially in small towns.Schools are part of the heart of life in the towns and cities where they were located. Even today, the schools and activities there and at the adjacent churches make up much of the social and cultural life of the people.
Private schools educate 16% of the students in the country. The schools of the Latin Patriarchate receive many children from very poor families since their policy is to reach out to the needy and not just those who have funds. The schools receive so many underprivileged children that they must seek support from sources outside the country to carry on their work. The government has never supported private schools in the West Bank.
Since the Intifada and the resultant breakdown of family and social structures the schools have had to take on added tasks. The victim of violence and social disruption is always the weakest member of society, and the children are the weakest. It is natural that the school should take on new responsibilities since they care for the children and teenagers during the day and they have trained teachers to care for the educational and social well being of the students. That training should admittedly be strengthened however.
The schools have become the focus of providing recreation and play in a society that cannot afford to provide many such opportunities to their children. The schools have had to take on the task of becoming a center that provides stability and nurturing for the child. Counseling and special attention to children having behavioral problems are becoming a part of school programs and teacher training. The schools are often the only source of education in art, music, folklore treasures, and the transmitters of the best of the cultural heritage of the country.