LONDON (Reuters) – Five schools, including a bilingual, integrated Jewish-Arab one in Jerusalem, triumphed at the World’s Best School prizes on Saturday for feats including fostering unity, helping the local community and supporting mental health.
The winners, also in Brazil, Colombia, India and South Africa, shared a $250,000 prize at the awards, launched last year by T4 Education, a global network for educators.
The Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School won the Overcoming Adversity prize for its integration of Jewish and Arab students.
Lessons are taught in both Hebrew and Arabic to more than 600 students. The school won the prize amid Israel’s war in Gaza, which was launched in response to the deadly attack on southern Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Oct. 7.
“Winning an award as ‘the best school in the world’ would normally be a cause for celebration. With a war waging and thousands of precious lives lost, this is not the time for celebration. It is the time for resolution,” Dani Elazar, chief executive of the Hand in Hand schools network, said in a statement.
The community collaboration prize went to SPARK Soweto, based in the South African township where former president Nelson Mandela once lived.
It was recognised for teaching students how to vote, curb waste pollution and address gender based violence. Its students also teach younger children to read.
Colombia’s Institución Educativa Municipal Montessori sede San Francisco, based in the town of Pitalito, won the environmental action prize for a student programme that turns coffee pulp waste into eco-friendly products, like organic soap.
EEMTI Joaquim Bastos Gonçalves school in Carnaubal, Brazil, won the supporting healthy lives award for providing students with access to psychologists and teaching about mental health following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The innovation prize went to the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India, for its student-centric approach and programme focused on cultivating empathy, creativity and social responsibility.
The inaugural community choice award, voted by the public, went to Escola Municipal Professor Edson Pisani in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for local initiatives including a new bus route and community waste project.
“Educators across the world should look to the shining examples of your schools in the difference you have made to so many lives,” T4 Education and the prizes founder Vikas Pota said. “Governments must look to the trailblazing work you have done as they seek answers to the great challenges we face today.”
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Lara Brehmer; Editing by Alison Williams)