Overcoming learning difficulties in a refugee camp
“It's okay not to know something, because everything can be learned”
“It's okay not to know something, because everything can be learned”, Hadi (9) and Farah (7) repeat what they hear from the World Vision BiH team in the reception centre Ušivak, where this team is implementing the programme “Akelius Digital Language Course and inclusion of refugee and migrant children in formal education system in Sarajevo Canton” supported by the Swedish National Committee for UNICEF, UNICEF Global Humanitarian Thematic fund and World Vision Germany.
Hadi and Farah currently reside in Reception Centre Usivak in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Originally from Afghanistan, children left their home country with their mother, and two more siblings. The decision to leave was influenced by the poverty they lived in, and constant political unrest. The family could not afford any form of transportation to assist them on their journey, and they have crossed over into Europe entirely on foot. After crossing the vast Afganistan, they walked through Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro and now BiH.
Hadi and Farah come to the classes every day. Here they have the opportunity to learn, socialize with their peers, and express themselves creatively.
“The siblings are quite shy and it took a lot of effort to involve them in group activities”, says Lida Hanic, teacher assistant.
Lida quickly noticed that Hadi and Farah have lexical difficulties. When the first came to the refugee camp, neither could write. But Lida quickly learned specificities about each child and used it to encourage them to learn and be more confident.
Farah is ambidextrous, and Lida made sure to point this out as a skill.
“It was very endearing when Farah noticed that I was pleasantly surprised, presenting it as some magical gift she possessed.”
This enticed Farah to use both hands to copy the letters Lida was teaching to her, all the while laughing excitedly.
Her brother Hadi is very introverted, does not like to communicate directly, nor to participate too actively in interactive workshops. He prefers being approached individually and work on solo activities such as putting together a puzzle. Lida noticed that the boy likes order and that he enjoys organizing and putting things in “their place”. Hadi described that the precise organization gives him satisfaction.
Lida, then, pointed out the organization of words and how individual letters when carefully organized make whole words.
Coming to classes every day and the personalized touch helped the children master the basics of literacy. They learned the first five letters of the alphabet and what was most interesting to them, was to learn to write their own name.
“It took a lot of desire and patience on both sides”, says Lida. “I taught them that each finger on one hand represents a certain letter, so that they learn the order of the letters as efficiently as possible, and using their hands, it was very fun for them.”
In spite of the challenges, Hadi and Farah showed an incredible commitment to learning. Not a day passed that they were absent from the workshops.
“Farah told me that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up”, says Lida.