Better schools for staff and students in Jordan
LWF, CLWR and Global Affairs Canada mark completion of pioneering ‘Improved Learning Environments for Children’ project
(LWI) - Tens of thousands of Jordanian and Syrian students are reaping the benefits of a more positive school environment, thanks to a project pioneered by Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), with support from Global Affairs Canada and in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Education.
The four-year project, called ‘Improved Learning Environments for Children’, has provided practical renovation of school buildings and classrooms, as well as training for staff and students in a range of skills to address bullying, conflict, absenteeism and under-performance. It also works to support schools that are striving to become more inclusive for children with all kinds of disabilities.
“At our school, the academic curriculum used to be the sole focus,” explains Dyala Nofal, a chemistry teacher at the Rufaida Al Aslamieh Primary Mixed School, in the Sahab district of Amman, Jordan. The school is one of 75 institutes benefitting from this project which reaches over 57.000 students in Amman and the three northern governorates in Jordan.
Basketball training is underway at Rufaida Al Aslamieh. The school serves more than 1,000 students from kindergarten age up to 10th grade, most of them girls from Jordan but also some from Syria and other countries.
Under Nofal’s direction, the school has introduced a ‘Talent Room’ where children are encouraged to develop their creative skills such as art, drama, music and handcrafts. At the beginning, reactions were mixed, Nofal admits. “But it did not take long before we could demonstrate the impact and the improvement for the children.”
Esra'a, a mother of two girls studying at the school, agrees that the project has boosted motivation and self-esteem for her children. “These days, my girls come home to show me the paintings they have drawn, or the letters they cut out from papers and scissors. For me, this is an opportunity I never had as a child, and I’m so happy to see it for my girls,” she says.
Surveys of staff and students confirm that this approach has led to significant improvements in wellbeing for both male and female students. Absenteeism has dropped by around 50 percent over the four-year period for both Jordanian and Syrian pupils across the 75 schools. Over 90 percent of both staff and students now describe their classroom environment as ‘a satisfactory or good place for learning’.
15-year-old Rena Almaharmeh (left) receives piano instructions from ten-year-old Saja (right) in the Talent Room at Rufaida Al Aslamieh Primary Mixed School.
Up to 90 percent of school principals reported that they had introduced teaching about health and hygiene, as well as about psychosocial support for students, as the result of a 2017 training session carried out by project staff (an increase from 15% of male principals and 36% of female principals before the training). A similar high percentage of principals also now include gender equality lessons in their school curricula.
For real impact, you need to inspire change and it is all about how passionate we are in looking to create new ideas, inspire teachers and staff to bring creativity into the teaching environment.
Dr Susan Khouri, LWF Jordan’s Education Advisor, has seen a range of positive effects on the students over the four-year period. “For real impact, you need to inspire change,” she says, “and it is all about how passionate we are in looking to create new ideas, inspire teachers and staff to bring creativity into the teaching environment.”
Noting that schools have shared ideas and best practices, Khouri adds: “For us as LWF, the combination of the hard component of rehabilitation of buildings, and the soft component of trainings and classroom initiatives, is also helping to increase commitment to the schools and to invest in learning environments where motivation can grow.”
Pupils work to solve a puzzle at the Al Areen Secondary School for Boys, as part of the ‘Spaces for Creativity’ initiative.
Boys’ schools included in the project have also experienced a decrease in bullying and conflict as a direct result of the training for staff and students. The Al Areen Secondary School for Boys, located in the Al Jeeza district of Amman, has pioneered an initiative called ‘Spaces for Creativity’, encouraging students to develop their creative and thinking skills through activities such as puzzles, chess and other board games.
Mohammad Alhamayel is a Mathematics teacher at Al Areen, and is responsible for the ‘Spaces for Creativity’ initiative. “Finding this kind of learning environment is rare in Jordanian public schools,” Alhamyel says.
“But we see that we need to take care of these talents that our students have, when they are at a young age. And since we started doing this, we see that this is also a way we can remove some of the root causes of bullying and violence,” he observes.
With input from Albin Hillert.
The Improved Learning Environment for Children project is funded by Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada