The Yad Eliezer Shalhevet Early Learning Initiative recently began the school year with the annual Shalhevet convention on October 12th. The convention, held at the Ramat Shlomo Community Center in Jerusalem, welcomed all Shalhevet staff as well as several Jerusalem municipality officials including Vice Mayor Yitzchak Pindrus and City Council Members Shlomo Rosenstein, Itamar Bar-Ezer, and Shlomo Hasidim. In an enthusiastic show of support, honoured guest Mayor Nir Barkat attended the convention as well.
Speakers included senior staff and municipality members, who discussed such topics as the impact Shalhevet is having on children’s lives and the dedication of the tutors and diagnosticians working in the context of the program. Several speakers noted that early diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities may promise the avoidance of academic failure and social alienation for students. Mention was made of the large number of children-at-risk who suffering from untreated learning disabilities today. Speakers emphasized the many more children who stood to benefit from the program’s expansion.
Concluding words were delivered by Mayor Barkat. “Allow me to give you a perspective on how much I love this project,” he began, providing a moving description of his own daughters’ involvement in an integrated elementary school environment, and the great benefit the integration provided for both mainstream students such as his daughters as well as the learning disabled students.
“The city-wide vision I am trying to lead to actuality includes every child in this city being evaluated [for learning disabilities] between kindergarten and first grade,” Mayor Barket declared. “My own girls were evaluated then. By learning about their strengths and weaknesses we were able to build upon their strengths and avoid potential pitfalls. This had tremendous consequences for their self-esteem. Imagine...every teacher being given a list of his or her students’ strengths and weaknesses as a tool.”
The mayor’s talk concluded with his hopes for Shalhevet’s expansion. “I am a great believer in private-public partnerships,” he said, explaining that while the public budget is always limited, public-private partnerships provide a way for both sectors to increase their involvement and maximize effectiveness. The mayor expressed his gratitude to the Yad Eliezer donors who allow the Shalhevet Early Learning Initiative to continue to thrive and grow.
“Shalhevet gives students tools to help themselves, and, in many cases, avoids problems from coming into being in the first place. The cost benefit of this procedure is one of the best of the educational system. Shalhevet activities are a breakthrough and we must discuss how to systematically expand them every year.”