On January 30-31, the third International Mayors’ Conference NOW took place in Vienna. Experts, local decision-makers, EU-Parliamentarians, NGOs, refugees and local residents of hosting countries discussed the situation of refugee children and the problems they face in their countries of origin, in their host countries, as well as on their way to Europe.
They exchanged their views and experience, worked on finding approaches, defining requirements and provisions that can effectuate improvement.
Lina Farouqi, MECI Regional Director, was invited to discuss about "Educational realities of refugees in the MENAT region" and share MECI Jordan's expertise with refugee and disadvantaged children.
Here is her speach:
"The Institute was founded in 2005 by Mrs. Lola Nashashibi Grace, and started its work in 2007 in Palestine, offering after school programs to vulnerable children and empowerment opportunities for women with great success.
In 2013, MECI decided to expand our mission and address the Syrian educational crisis. We established a Regional Office in Amman, Jordan, and have exponentially grown ever since.
In 2014 we started with 3 schools in Central Jordan in partnership with UNICEF. In 2015, we expanded to 6 with UNICEF, and later 3 more with UNESCO.
In 2016 we up scaled our intervention to a total of 23 schools across 4 governorates, reaching over 3,500 students in the last quarter of 2016, in partnership with UNICEF and the Malala Fund.
By July this year, we hope to reach another 3,500 children as well as 100 girls through a Girls Club.
I would very much like to discuss in depth how our model works, but I think it is more interesting for you to hear about some of our students:
When you meet Hajjar and Eman, who are both Syrian children enrolled in the MECI program, you only see a passion for studying, a thirst for social interactions and attention, and hope for the future.
But the truth is, both Hajjar and Eman were at risk of dropping out of formal school when they joined us.
A tailored program structure, and the dedicated care of MECI teachers for every single student is what maintained them on a right track, a track of stability and possibility, a pathway to Education and opportunities, the development of hope out of despair.
The ongoing support that MECI provides for students like Hajjar and Eman lies at the core of what we do.
Through partnerships with renowned UN agencies and donors like UNICEF, UNESCO and the Malala Fund whom I thank, we provide academic and psychosocial support to vulnerable children - refugees and Jordanians - to not only help children transition into schools, but provide them with ongoing support so they stay and fit in school.
As you may know, the Government of Jordan and particularly the Ministry of Education have generously allowed all Syrian refugee children to enroll in public schools.
They have also opened 200 double shifted schools to ensure that there are seats for all Syrian children.
It is still estimated that about 80,000 children remain out-of-school, and have been so, for up to 5 years.
While the national and international stakeholders have significantly improved access to education for refugees, we at MECI, know that access is not enough.
Refugee children face significant challenges once in school, and these challenges place them at a high risk for dropping out.
We must understand, face, and address the intertwined needs of this generation of learners of today and decision makers of tomorrow.
This can be done by honoring the objectives we stated in the Regional Response Plan for Education, which are ensuring access, quality and system strengthening in Education.
MECI believes in the renewed necessity to support children enrolled in Formal Education with integrated protection, psychosocial and remedial services.
MECI has had and will continue to have a clear impact in assisting them to actually adapt, and remain in schools.
After witnessing the academic and behavioral struggles of the majority of Syrian students, and building on the truth that “we cannot teach a child who has been through trauma the same way we teach other children”, in 2016 MECI Jordan internally engaged in researching the potential impact of trauma exposure onto a child’s brain, and the ability to learn and behave appropriately.
The lessons we learned from this research were integrated into newly designed academic and behavioral tools and training materials to promote a trauma-sensitive program, and schools.
The impact we have through our program often resonates or has a spill over effect to other schools, as we employ teachers certified by the Ministry of Education who also occasionally work in public schools, in the morning.
Their growth as educators through our program eventually serves thousands more students, today and for years to come.
The overall aim of our program is to enable all children, regardless of their background, to become better learners, and overcome academic and behavioral impairments at an early stage.
Combined to governmental efforts to ensure every child is given a seat into formal schools, MECI’s education program enhances each child’s opportunity to adapt to the school environment, and succeed.
In 2014, MECI reached 1,087 children aged 6-12.
In 2015, we reached 2,300 children.
94% of those who took pre- and post- academic testing demonstrated progress.
87% of those who were assessed behaviorally demonstrated improvement.
In the last quarter of 2016 only, we’ve reached 3,500 students. The semester is not over, but we are positive that similar progress and impact will be demonstrated.
We now have the ambition and ability to expand to more schools through similar programs but also incorporate new and critically needed components, in the form of non-formal education, as well as early childhood education and development.
This is, in our opinion, the only way we will be able to positively impact Syrian children, and equip them with the most valuable weapon they should be holding in their future; their Education."