Teaching and Learning in Mafraq

Grace Killian



I apologize for being rather absent on this blog. Life in Mafraq involves much more running around not to mention I am living with 7 other girls - quiet time and space is rare and precious.

In this time, I have continued to work at the school for refugee children. It is hard to believe that school will be over in two weeks. These children have learned a great deal, both academic knowledge and otherwise, in the last several months.

Everyday the children have Arabic, math in Arabic, science in Arabic, and English. There are two classrooms with overall target ages of 6-12. For Arabic and Math they are divided by age and for Science and English they are divided by English ability. Most days, I work with some of the children one on one. Some advanced children are just beginning to grasp reading in English and others work on basic perception development with me.

It has been fascinating and a joy to watch these refugees learn how to be children again. When they are playing together and are eager to learn, or even reluctant to learn, you can forget that they have already been through so much. Then one of them will draw a graphic, violent picture and you remember that they have escaped a civil war. This fact does add some extra challenges.

They are all at different places in their education coming to this school - some have completed several years and some never stepped foot in a school before the war. Almost all of their educations were disrupted by the war. It's hard to address such a wide range of backgrounds in two classrooms.

Some of the children also have some extra behavioral and emotional issues that the average child would not have. The teachers alone cannot diagnose anything, obviously, but some seem to be dealing with some anger issues and some are seemingly void of emotion.

After school on Tuesdays, I also help teach an English class for Syrian women, some of which are mothers of children in the school. They are excited to learn and I think they study their English more than I study Arabic. More than anything though, this gives them a time to be together and socialize. Almost all of them knew each other in some way when they were still in Homs. Essentially every Syrian refugee in Mafraq is from Homs - as if a large majority of the city was simply transplanted.

I finished my internship teaching at a kindergarten in Senegal convinced that primary education should be mandatory and available for all children. It is exciting to be in a place where I can live out this belief and expand upon my practical and theoretical knowledge of education and international development.

Even if these children finish the year without mastering English, they have worked hard and seen the results of their efforts in many ways. It has taught them how to interact with each other and with elders. Being in school has given them at least one reason to like Jordan, which most of them dislike.  Finally, it gives them some sense of normalcy in their lives that have been completely turned upside down.


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