UNESCO project funded by the EU and implemented in partnership with MECI.
Mohammad, Age 11
Mohammad attended school until the first grade before the escalating conflict in Syria forced his family to flee to Jordan. Since then, Mohammad – now age 11 – has been out of school. “It’s been four years since he’s gone to school,” says his mother, “he’s just been spending time at home, doing nothing.” As a result, Mohammad cannot read or write and struggles with basic math skills.
Yet despite the gaps in his education, Mohammad is one of the most enthusiastic and committed students at MECI’s Doqara School program. “He has a real determination to improve himself,” says Nadia, the school principal. “Mohammad is weaker than most of his peers but that doesn’t seem to discourage him from learning .” Instead, he takes pride in his success, like recently learning to write his full name.
Mohammad’s time in MECI has also changed his attitude about the future: “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher,” he says, “because I know what it’s like to be deprived of an education, what it’s like to be unable to read and write. So I want to teach because I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve experienced.”
Mariam, Age 12
Mariam towers above most of her other classmates but still finds it difficult to keep up with them. At the beginning she “stayed silent” and was “indifferent” to what was going on in class, says Nadia, the principal of Doqara Primary School. But soon MECI’s patient and supportive teachers helped Mariam to move to open up and engage with others.
Mariam is particularly weak in math. At first, she could barely identify numbers and wouldn’t complete her homework. Her math teacher realized that Mariam was too shy to ask for help in front of everyone because she was older than the rest of the class. The teacher decided to use a technique that MECI recommends as part of its training – peer-to-peer help learning. After Mariam was coupled paired with another student who was good at math, the improvement in her work was immediate, says Nadia. “Mariam started to do her homework and came the next day to check her answers with her new friend,” she adds.
Mariam’s friend also helped her open up to participating in class. Initially Mariam wouldn’t like to ask any questions that would show her weakness. Sometimes she would “come to the teachers table and ask questions about math in a low voice,” Nadia explains. But now she’s eager to participate in class and “never skips a single day,” Nadia says, crediting the safe learning environment in MECI classrooms for this change.
Mariam has come a long way since joining MECI’s Doqara School program earlier this summer. Once shy and disengaged, she recently performed in a school play: “I played the part of the blind man, which I rehearsed for nearly everyday” she says with great excitement, not once mentioning feeling scared or intimidated about performing in front of her classmates.
Ms. Nadia, the school principal, attributes Mariam’s budding confidence to the support of her peers. “My friends and I help each other a lot. I teach them things and they teach me things,” says Mariam, “like yesterday I showed my friends, Rafat and Munther, how to build paper ships… and today my friend Wafa showed me how to write my name in English.”
Earlier in the summer, it was the support of a fellow classmate that also helped Mariam overcome her fear of math. Now, two months into the program, Mariam says that she wants to grow up to be a math teacher because she “loves the subject so much.”
Mohammad Ali, age 7
Mohammad Ali is a star student. His teachers say he is eager to learn, and always ready to help his peers. But Mohammad hasn’t had it easy. He lost his mother in Syria and made the hard journey to Jordan with his father and two younger brothers, leaving school during first grade.
None of this has deterred Mohammad, who says he wants to be a pilot when he grows up. His teachers say he is determined to work hard and improve himself. In particular, he loves PE and English lessons. “Once we tied balloons to our legs and did running activities in sports class. I loved that!” And he proudly talks about the 4 stars he earned in English class.
His father is proud of all his 3 sons who are part of the MECI program. “Inshallah. God will help me to teach my sons. Thank you to MECI for giving my children this chance to learn and improve themselves,” he says.
Ms. Nadia, Principal
Nadia, the principal of MECI’s Doqara School program, has worked in the Jordanian education system for 15 years. Yet despite her background as an educator and administrator, she’s never experienced anything like MECI: “Students are so happy to come to the program each day,” she says. “I’ve never seen this type of engagement and excitement at regular schools.”
But it’s not only the children who are excited about MECI’s IFE program. Nadia says that families are also pleased: “Parents have been very happy and appreciative of our efforts at the school. They keep telling their friends and community members, and now we’ve got a wait list for the program.”
Nadia credits her staff for the program’s early success: “I have amazing teachers. They are collaborative and committed to making classroom activities engaging and interactive.” She also acknowledges, however, that the work can be difficult and demanding. “I always tell them, ‘don’t focus the hard parts. Instead, think about the sense of achievement and pride you will feel for having educated a child.’ ”
Abdel Hameed, Syrian Outreach Counselor
Abdelhameed first joined MECI as a member of our student outreach campaign last winter. “We faced many challenges in reaching children and their families because we live in such a rural area,” he says, “but we persisted by making phone calls and house visits until we found as many vulnerable children as possible.”
Abdelhameed has always been an advocate for vulnerable children. In Syria, he worked first as a social worker for juvenile delinquents and then as a teacher for blind students. “I wanted to join MECI because I value the importance of learning, especially for Syrian children who have experienced tragedy,” he says, “that’s why we work so hard here. To provide these children with the best possible experience.”