“No Obstacle Can Stop a Dream”: Siblin Training Centre students excel in official exams

12 January 2021
Student Abdallah El Hussein in class at the UNRWA Siblin Training Centre, Lebanon. © 2019 UNRWA Photo

In 2020, 41 Palestine refugee students from the semi-professional course in Building and Public Works and Business Management at the UNRWA Siblin Training Centre (STC) sat for their official Technique Superieur (TS) exams, after some two years of study. In spite of all the challenges of the past year, not only did all 41 students pass but nine students passed with distinction and a further eleven students passed with merit. Passing these officially recognized exams will help open new doors for the students and allow them to transfer on to further education or to search for a better job opportunity.

The students started their courses back in 2018. Mr. Imad Manasri, the senior instructor of the Commercial section at STC, explains how their studies initially got off to a strong start. “The first year of their studies was a normal year without coronavirus and closures, which meant they had a great foundation for the second year. We were lucky to have mature students who were motivated to succeed, and we built effective ways of communication for their second year.”

The 2019-2020 scholastic year has been especially tough for students in Lebanon. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the closure of schools back in February, schools and vocational institutions were already facing closures and disruptions due to protests and the deterioration of the security situation which began in October 2019. Imad Manasri explains that though the challenge of COVID-19 is global and affects students all over the world, “We had built communication bridges with our students through social media during the times of the protests in Lebanon back in October 2019 and so we were ready to deal with the challenge of teaching the rest of the curriculum remotely after the outbreak of the coronavirus.”

Abdallah, a business management student who recently passed the TS exam, explains what the past year has been like from the student perspective: “This year has been very different from the previous years, it was full of challenges and difficulties for us and for our teachers, but I faced it head-on because I want to achieve my goals. At the beginning of the closures, the centre was shut down suddenly, and our books were still inside - that was the first challenge. But our teachers had already started copying the lessons and sending them to us. The teachers did what they could to help us adapt to the new online education modality.”

Abdullah adds, “At first, distance learning was not well received by the students, but it has become an essential, safe and important way of learning. I loved distance learning and got used to it quickly. I feel that it gives me more flexibility in scheduling my tasks - we are with the world on this issue.”

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, tailored training courses, funded by the European Union, were provided to STC instructors to increase their familiarization with the official TS curriculum. Experts from the Lebanese National Examination committees and from prestigious TVET institutes delivered pedagogical training sessions to STC instructors to increase their understanding of TS requirements and standards, and to help them apply successful teaching strategies in their TS classes.

UNRWA teacher Imad Manasri photographed with his students on a class trip prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. © 2019 UNRWA
UNRWA teacher Imad Manasri photographed with his students on a class trip prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. © 2019 UNRWA

Imad Manasri describes the courses, “Meetings with trainers and vocational training experts in Lebanon helped us understand the important TS aspects and prepare our students for examinations. The programme covered many important topics starting from the instructor’s acquisition of training skills and included workshops with experts in the field of TS. We benefitted a lot from this for this year and for the future as well.”

Student Nadine Abo Sado. © 2020 UNRWA Photo
Student Nadine Abo Sado. © 2020 UNRWA Photo

Nadine, a Building and Public works student who passed her TS exam with merit, describes how she felt well-prepared and confident before her exam and is delighted to have got the result she aimed for. “I would like to continue my studies at university,” she says, “but the economic situation is very bad, especially these days. I hope I will get a scholarship which will allow me to fulfill my dream.” Motivated to find a way to make her dream a reality, she says, “If you have a dream, fight for it and don't surrender, the situation is difficult, but no obstacle can stop a dream.”

It has been a tough year for students everywhere, but for these 41 students the future looks a little brighter. “I was expecting you to succeed because you are strong willed and you have spent a long time studying and preparing for this exam,” says Imad, in a message to his students, “You have all my respect and admiration, and I look forward to seeing you, in a few years’ time, excelling in universities, or in jobs that are worthy of you.”