UNESCO project funded by the EU and implemented in partnership with MECI.
Mohammad Naser, age 9
By the time Mohammad arrived in Jordan, the trauma he experienced in Syria had dramatically changed his personality. “He witnessed such intense violence during the conflict,” says his mother, that “he became nervous and aggressive.” Mohammad’s troubled behavior extended into the classroom, where he regularly acted out toward his peers and struggled to focus on class activities. He eventually dropped out.
At MECI, however, things have begun to change for Mohammad. “The supportive and encouraging learning environment has helped to change his behavior for the better”, says Norma, the school principal. “His teachers are using positive reinforcement methods, instead of verbal punishment, to correct his behavior… After class, they often speak with him about the reasons for his negative attitude and how he can change it.” As a result, Nadia feels that Mohammad has gained a motivation to learn, study and engage.
Once hyperactive and aggressive, Mohammad has begun to engage with his peers and teachers at MECI in a more constructive way. “He is more respectful in class,” says his mother, “especially during Arabic class because he loves his teacher Miss Marwa so much.”
MECI’s Jamileh School program is the first time that Mohammad has attended any type of education program – formal or otherwise – so everything is new for him. “He’s learning basic things he never knew before like how to write his name and how to make friends.”
In addition to Arabic, Mohammad has made strides in Math class. “Before he couldn’t do anything in math and now he can do basic exercises and homework assignments.” He also loves Life Skills, which is often the first thing he tells his mother about after school: “One day he came home and said ‘we are only supposed to take medicine if it comes from the doctor or our parents,’ [referencing a Life Skills lesson on health and wellbeing].”
Taiba, age 12
When Taiba entered MECI’s program, she had been out of school for more than five years. “She was always a passionate student but when heavy airstrikes hit the school in our community, we became afraid for her safety and had to keep her in the house,” says her mother, Um Abdo.
Unfortunately, Taiba was not safe, even at home. Months later, airstrikes also hit her family home, leaving Taiba physically injured and emotionally traumatized. “Tabia’s face was badly wounded… and she stopped talking for some time after the incident. She was in shock.”
Today, Taiba is slowly beginning to move past the trauma of her experiences in Syria. “From the very beginning, Taiba was shy and hesitant to open up but she also showed a passion to learn,” said Norma, the school principal. Taiba’s teachers are working to encourage her passion for school as a way to improve both her academic and interpersonal skills. “She’s asking questions, she’s engaging with peers – she even has the courage to answer question on the board. It’s a big improvement.”
Um Abdo has even noticed a change in Taiba’s behavior at home: “She comes home filled with stories about school… about new friends, about how wonderful her teachers are.” Once too shy to interact with others, Taiba now thinks of ways she can support and engage with her community of friends and teachers at MECI. “The other day asked if we could bring her teachers home-cooked food… to surprise them and thank them for their support.”
When asked what she learned last month as a student in MECI’s Jamileh School program, Taiba can barely contain her excitement: “I’ve learned so much,” she says, “when I started I couldn’t read my own name and now I can write it easily… I can even count to 1,000 now.”
For her mother, however, Taiba’s most meaningful improvements have been personal rather than academic. “She is a much happier child now and has made so many friends.” Taiba also points to personal achievements, including knowledge gained during Life Skills class. “I can deal with hard experiences or difficult people… I even know how to say ‘no’ [in bad situations],” she says.
“I just want to keep learning,” says Taiba, “how to paint, how to read more and how to write!”
Ms. Norma, School Principal
Norma, the principal of Jamele Bou Azza school, says she chose to work with MECI because she loves children. “Real education is an important thing to invest in,” she says.
In reflecting on her first month with MECI, Norma talks about how difficult it was to register students before the program started. “But now, after three weeks of the program, we have such a good reputation that parents have started to come and register their children. Unfortunately, we have turn them away because of lack of space.”
One of her favorite things about working with MECI is the team spirit among her colleagues. She explains how she enjoys working with the team at her shcool, despite their differences: “At the beginning I was hesitant to work with the Syrian counselor. I thought working with him would be a hectic and difficult… but after we began, I discovered how great he is. Just like the teachers, he’s committed to providing the students with good quality education. We’re a great team”
She says she has been inspired by MECI’s work and would like to work in the development field after she retires. “I talk about MECI with everyone – my family, relatives and even neighbors,” she says.
Hassan Mustafa, Syrian Outreach Counselor
Hassan Mustafa is clearly passionate about education. “It’s like having one-hundred and fifty children,” he says, referring to his work as a Syrian Outreach Counselor. “He really is like the ‘father’ of the program,” says his wife, Haya. “Everyday he’s checking up on students, making phone calls to families and working to resolve behavioral or academic issues at the school.”
An experienced teacher and administrator, Hassan worked in the Syrian Education sector for more than a decade before fleeing to Jordan. Now a refugee, he has maintained his commitment to education through a number of community-based activities devoted to Syrian refugee children and youth. “When I first arrived in Jordan, I worked on an initiative to help thousands of Syrian refugee youth apply for the Syrian baccalaureate exam so that they could enter Syrian colleges upon their return.”
Hassan’s passion and dedication to education and children makes him an invaluable part of the MECI family. “I won’t ever stop doing this work because I want to help these children achieve their dreams.”