Ahmad Jamal Al-Saleh is a ten-year old student at Sarafand lower elementary school in Tyre, Lebanon. Four months ago he was unable to recognize the alphabet, or do basic mathematical operations. Furthermore, Ahmad had difficulties in concentrating, following instructions and completing tasks.
It is likely that without help Ahmad would have continued to find school difficult and made little progress. However, at the beginning of this year Ahmad was able to enroll in a special class for children who are having difficulties in school. The availability of this class is thanks to the EU-funded education project in Lebanon, which began in 2006 and aims to improve the quality of education through the construction of new schools, extra teacher training, and support for children with special needs. The European Union has committed EUR15,000,000 to the project.*
Ahmad was given an individualized educational plan, especially tailored to his needs and educational capabilities. He was placed in a class with seven other students, and in the four months since he began the new programme has made remarkable progress. Now he can spell, read and write words and sentences, and perform basic mathematics. "I feel happy and I visit the school library to borrow and enjoy reading stories that I was not able to read before." He wishes to become a teacher in future to help students who suffer learning difficulties.
Ahmad is one of many children who have benefited from the EU education project. Walaa and Hanadi left school at an early age, before the completion of their education. "Being an under-achiever, repeating classes and having a low performance record led me to leave school and stay at home", said Hanadi. "At that time, I felt that my future was ruined, and I’d lost hope".
However Walaa and Hanadi were able to enroll in a drop-out programme, again funded in part by the EU-UNRWA education project. As Walaa explained, "I stayed at home for six months without school and without a job until the school principal invited me to meet with officials from the school drop-out programme. They offered me the options of either returning to school or enrolling in a vocational major of my choice that would enable me to acquire a profession to work in. I chose photography and editing".
The two girls have joined a special one–year programme to study photography and editing, in addition to practical training in a real studio. Currently, they are both working in a studio in the city of Sidon.
According to the studio owner/ director, "The two girls are active and quick learners, this is due to the fact that they are dedicated and highly motivated to improve."
Hanadi is happy and excited by the work, "Thanks to the drop-out programme, my life has changed, and improved. As I go out to work everyday, I have regained hope, and the value of my existence in society.
I would advise everyone to learn a profession in case they are unable to continue academic schooling."
* Note on the EU education project in Lebanon and progress so far.
In recent years, UNRWA Lebanon Education Department has been faced with several critical challenges in the delivery of improved educational services to Palestine refugee children and youth. In order to address these challenges, the Education Department has begun to transform the educational services it provides. The goal of this transformation is to enhance the quality of education through the improvement of the learning environment. One component of the initiative to improve the learning environment of UNRWA’s schools has been the Education Department’s effort to provide single shift schooling to all children throughout Lebanon by the commencement of the 2010 scholastic year.
UNRWA’s efforts to enhance the quality of education through improvement in the learning environment have been supported in recent years by several key donors. Most recently, a 15 million Euro four-year project (2006-2009), funded by the European Union, has contributed significantly to UNRWA’s efforts in achieving single shift schooling for Palestine refugee children and youth. During the project 149 new classrooms were created through new school construction and the renovation of existing schools.
In recent months, as the project is coming to an end in 2009, asignificant savings, generated from exchange rate differentials as well as UNRWA’s innovative re-programming and rehabilitation initiatives, was discovered. These savings have provided an opportunity for UNRWA to construct four additional schools (2 in Saida and 2 in Beirut). These additional schools will help not only in the provision of single shift schooling but will also provide for an increase in the teaching time for approximately 3,000 students from 4.5 to 6.0 hours per day and an increase in teacher-student contact time. The increased number of classrooms has permitted the average class size to be reduced from 50 to 40 students across approximately 70 class sections. Lastly, the construction of new schools has allowed UNRWA’s Education Department to create educational areas within the school environment where students can receive specialized educational services such as remedial education and recreational activities.