MECI-UNICEF’s Shajert Al-Dor School Program
Sultan, age 11
Sultan Khatar, age 11, is old for his grade. When he first joined MECI, Sultan felt shy about his age difference and rarely answered questions out of fear of being wrong. “He might know the answer but he will say ‘I don’t know’,” explains his father Khader Saleh.
Sultan attended first grade in Syria but had to leave school after his neighborhood came under attack. Scared for their safety, the family moved to Jordan in 2012. Now, Sultan and his family live in a makeshift tent in Ramtha, on assistance provided by NGOs and charity from friends.
Despite their challenges, Sultan’s parents tried to homeschool him, teaching him Arabic letters and numbers at home. Sultan enjoys learning, says his father, and the MECI program has provided him an opportunity to do so. In school, Sultan “does his best to learn,” says his teacher, Ms. Kholoud, explaining that he is now open to giving and receiving help from his peers.
“Even on the hottest days he insists on going to school,” says his father. Sultan is also becoming responsible. He looks out for his younger brother who is also enrolled in the program, and makes sure he does his homework.
Nadia Yousef*, age 11
Nadia Yousef was born with congenital hip dysplasia and quadriplegia. Though she is just 11 years old, she has had 12 surgeries on her tiny body. While in Syria, her frequent hospital visits meant that she regularly missed school. To make matters worse, she hasn’t been to school since arriving in Jordan more than two years ago.
When Nadia’s family left the Zarqa governorate for Ramtha city in Jordan, Nadia started having problems in the neighborhood. The children didn’t understand her health problems and would tease and harass Nadia about her disabilities. Soon she preferred being alone, and hated interacting with others.
But behind the sadness, there lay a quick-witted girl with high potential, says Ms. Saeda, her teacher. Ms. Saeda ensured that Nadia was involved in all school activities and paid special attention to speaking with other students about how to interact with people with special needs.
She says she continued to involve Nadia in all school activities, and paid special attention to explaining to her peers how to interact with people with special needs. “No one bullies her in the (MECI) program and everyone helps her,” says her father Yousef.
Nadia’s positive experiences at MECI have also changed her attitude toward learning “The MECI program starts at 1:30 pm but Nadia is ready for school by 10 am, eagerly waiting for the bus,” he explains. When her grandmother asked Nadia why he was ready so early, she answered: “I have to go to go school. I have to learn,” her father said.
MECI-UNICEF’s Mekkah Al-Mukarrama School Program
Yazan Ayyash still has nightmares from the war in Syria. He was only two years old when his father, a teacher, was arrested by the Syrian government while teaching in school. They also took two-year old Yazan with them, and beat his father in front of the child. These traumatic experiences affected Yazan’s attitude and behavior. Halfway through his first year of schooling in Syria, he became so paralyzed by fear and anxiety that he couldn’t study or interact with his teachers and classmates. Yazan even became violent towards others.
The same situation was repeated when Yazam started MECI’s program. “He would become unfocused in class. He couldn’t hold a pencil and write. And he would become tired and somber very easily,” his teacher, Ms. Eman, explains. She adds that Yazan came to dislike school and would not respond to the teacher or make friends with other students. “But I could see that he had great academic potential, because he excelled when he was focused and engaged,” she says.
Through incentives for good work, and one-to-one interaction with the teacher, Yazan is slowly making progress. He now wants to learn, completes his homework on time, and solve problems on the board. He has even started to talk to his peers and make new friends.
Jama, Yazan’s father, says that fights in the house and with the children in the neighborhood have reduced since the MECI program begun. “We use to argue about going to school,” says Jamal “but now he doesn’t want to miss a day.”
Ghina Aman Dhahi*, age 7
Ayman enrolled his daughter, Ghina, age 7, in MECI’s Mekka Al Mukarrama program to help overcome her fear of interacting with other children, a consequence, he says, of living through violence and air raids in Syria.
During her first 10 days in the program, Ghina struggled to deal with her social anxiety. She often cried in class and insisted that she wanted to return home. In an effort to help Ghina overcome these fears, her teacher Ms. Majeda began to use verbal and material incentives to encourage her to play and interact with other children. “We had to help her open up, and to be less afraid” says Ms. Majeda, “I knew with a little extra encouragement and support that she could succeed.”
Within two weeks, Ms. Majeda’s efforts began to pay off. Slowly, Ghina began to make new friends and join in class activities. As a result, her father says, her reading and writing have improved and her interest in school has increased dramatically. “Even before she eats, she wants to finish her homework,” says Ayman, crediting MECI with the positive changes in his daughter attitude and behavior.
MECI-UNICEF’s Hala School Program
Sajeda is one of the many Syrian students who joined MECI to make up for years spent out of school. Amidst many obstacles, Sajeda continued to encourage herself and her family to be positive. "I love studying and I don't have the chance to join public schools, so MECI was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said. Sajeda’s appreciation for education comes from her parents, who told MECI that "education is one of the few things that can help Sajeda overcome her challenges and reach her goals.”
Sajeda’s positive attitude and leadership makes her a role model for her classmates at MECI. Her teachers mentioned that she "spreads her positivity and enthusiasm for learning among other students.” And it’s not just her peers that Sajeda inspires: “Her maturity and passion for learning inspired and motivates the teaching staff to offer more and more each day,” says the school principal.