Over 440 people graduated from ICMC Jordan’s Arabic literacy courses last year, including 367 women. Among them was Zaina, a Syrian refugee residing in the Jordanian governorate of Irbid.
Zaina*, 50, fled the Syrian capital of Damascus for Jordan with her five children in 2012. “Chaos was rampant in our area […] Reports of rape and kidnapping of young women and girls were spreading. Fearing for the safety of our children and especially of our young daughters, I chose to seek refuge in Jordan. My husband stayed behind to protect our house from being looted or captured,” Zaina recalls. “Shortly after we left, he was detained. As for our home in Damascus, it had been destroyed.”
When they arrived in Jordan, Zaina and her children faced many obstacles, including a lack of financial resources. Having dropped out of school after finishing sixth grade, Zaina found out that her weak reading and writing skills affected her ability to adjust to her new environment.
“I was clueless to the impact quitting school had on my life and began to regret it when I tried to obtain the needed papers and permits for my children to continue their education here,” she says. “I had to rely on the help of others and I couldn’t help my children with their schoolwork. They had to rely on each other for help.”
“Seeing how my situation affected my morale, my Syrian neighbors kept encouraging me to enroll in the International Catholic Migration Commission’s (ICMC) literacy courses. They had graduated from the Arabic literacy classes and had greatly appreciated the classes and the teachers. What’s more, I didn’t want to feel inadequate towards my younger children or my grandchildren when they would grow up.”
Immediately after enrolling, Zaina noticed the literacy classes’ positive effect on her and her children. “I started to involve my youngest son, Ahmad, 13, when I did my homework. My spelling and reading skills improved and my confidence in assisting Ahmad with his homework also grew. I’ve also managed to overcome the anxiety I used to feel whenever I had to handle official family matters.”
Ahmad is a gentle child whom his mother describes as smart, with a “huge appetite for learning”. He “used to love going to school,” says Zaina. “When we practiced his dictation, he used to do it perfectly, like his homework.”
However, because of his Syrian nationality and docile nature, the child became the target of bullying. According to Zaina, continued mistreatment and his teachers’ inaction led Ahmad to quit school.
He used to accompany his mother to her ICMC literacy classes, where he discovered the Child-Friendly Space. In this safe place, children can attend educational and recreational activities designed to improve their psychosocial well-being and decrease their isolation.
“Seeing his interest, we enrolled him in recreational activities,” explains Ahmad’s Child-Friendly Space teacher, Ms. Samah. “At first, he was withdrawn. As the days passed, he became more sociable and began interacting with his peers. He made friends.”
“I really liked attending the activities,” says Ahmad. “I learned how to be stronger, how to face my fears and deal with those treating me badly. I also met Mahmoud. He’s my neighbor and we’re friends now.”
ICMC’s Child-Friendly Spaces are a part of its Protection Centers in Mafraq and Irbid. Over the past 12 months, 6128 children have attended ICMC Jordan’s Child-Friendly Space activities.
Over the same period, ICMC Jordan’s Protection Centers in Mafraq and Irbid have assisted 10,769 people from the refugee and local host communities. Regardless of participants’ age, nationality or religion, the Protection Centers provide informal education opportunities such as Arabic and English literacy classes, life skills courses and educational and recreational activities for children.
Participants also benefit from counseling and psychosocial support as well as awareness-raising sessions on a variety of topics such as gender-based violence, positive parenting and healthy domestic relationships, among others. These activities help participants boost their self-confidence and build competencies for their development and growth.
ICMC assistance to vulnerable refugees and host populations in Jordan is made possible by funding from the US Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees.
* All beneficiaries’ names have been changed to protect their identities.