A True Mentor and Confidant: Teacher Mohammed Awwad’s Goal to Inspire Trust

05 October 2021
Teacher Mohammad Awwad stands in the library of the UNRWA Nuzha Preparatory Girls’ School. © 2021 UNRWA Photo

“My motto in life is this: I want students to escape to me, not away from me. That’s the kind of teacher I aspire to be and hope that I am.”  These are the words of Mohammed Darwish Awwad, a teacher at the UNRWA Nuzha Preparatory Girls School in Jordan, generously funded by the United States, who has been teaching Arabic language for 27 years.  A writer, poet and member of the Jordanian Writers Association, he is one of more than 20,000 UNRWA teachers in the Middle East region who are at the center of education recovery during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic circled the globe in early 2020, school closures quickly followed and Mr. Awwad was determined to inspire his students to continue their education and went out of his way to follow up with them.

While UNRWA teachers are trained to provide quality, inclusive and remote education in times of crisis through the renowned Education in Emergencies approach, the COVID-19 pandemic initially presented a particular challenge to educators throughout the region due to lack of resources and uncertainty. This required a great deal of innovation and creativity on the part of the teachers, including Mr. Awwad who sought ways to keep in touch with his students: “It was very important for me as a teacher to, firstly, take care of the students’ mental health and then find alternatives to deal with the new imposed situation as soon as possible,” said Mohammad. “I needed to tell them that they are not alone, and that school will continue even if we were not able to go to school”.

To keep in touch with his students, he initially organized a WhatsApp group to be used as a ‘school radio’ every morning.  Students could join the conversation via WhatsApp voice notes to express their thoughts and stay updated with the latest news.  But even this method presented challenges as not all children had the necessary resources.

“During lockdowns, on some days we had to work until midnight because some of the students didn’t have smart devices and had to wait for their parents to be back from work to use their phones. Some didn’t even have access to the internet all the time so I had to find other ways to check up on them,” said Mr. Awwad. “As hard and draining as it was, I never wanted any student to be left behind. I encouraged myself to do more by putting myself in their shoes and thought what if that was my son or daughter? What if they drop out of school because I didn’t try harder?”

Mr. Awwad did not only focus on teaching them, he also created extracurricular and interactive activities for his students. As a member of the Arabic Reading Contest’s Judging Committee, he encouraged his students to schedule video meetings with him to read together a list of Arabic books that he had put together every day. One of his students was able to score first place in this nationwide contest: “I was very proud of my students, they enjoyed reading so much which gave me motivation to do more for them”.

The innovation and dedication by teachers such as Mr. Awwad was fundamental in absorbing the initial shock of remote learning modalities imposed on students and teachers. Mr. Awwad and his colleagues at UNRWA schools throughout the region, remain at the center of this process.  “It takes a great amount of effort and time to build a generation that is functional, aware and bright, but it’s our duty to make sure that happens. It is worth that effort and time,” he says.

UNRWA is able to deliver its uninterrupted and quality education services thanks to the generous support of donors, including the United States Government, whose critical backing builds on decades of cooperation.