5 October 2012
UNRWA operates 172 schools in Jordan, providing nine years of basic education for more than 122,000 students and training more than 600 teachers each year. While UNRWA students test well above average in Jordan, there are no resources to create programming for special-needs students.
Using skill and creativity, one UNRWA teacher decided to do something about it.
Nadia Mustafa Abu-Jbara is a teacher at the Marka Camp Girls School northeast of Amman. As an extension of the Agency’s standard human rights curriculum, Nadia initiated the “citizenship project” to help fourth and fifth graders with special needs. “I was a girl with special needs myself when I was their age”, she explained. “It was my teachers who helped me overcome my stuttering problem.”
What has made the project a success is the participation of ninth and tenth graders—“young teachers” who volunteer their time after school to help younger peers.
“In the beginning, the young teachers used the same teaching methods as their own teachers when working with the fourth and fifth graders. Because of this, no progress was noticed in the younger children’s abilities and skills”, Nadia recalled.
Re-assessing teaching methods
After re-thinking her approach, Nadia took the young teachers to a training workshop at a well-respected educational institution specialising in teaching children with special needs.
“We realised that children with special needs require a different teaching approach”, said Nadia. “They do not always benefit from traditional classroom settings, and they often learn more when senses beyond sight and hearing—like smell and touch—are used.”
The citizenship project not only helped special-needs students achieve more in the classroom and become more involved in daily school activities; it also helped the volunteers who worked with them after school.
“The young teachers are more responsible now”, concluded Nadia. “They are aware that making a difference does not require huge resources but rather a good heart and positive attitude.”