Educate A Child and UNICEF help children in Hama catch up on learning through ‘Curriculum B’

Out-of-school children return to education thanks to accelerated learning programme

Rasha Alsabbagh
30 September 2020

Hama, Syria, 8 September 2020- Thanks to a generous contribution from Educate A Child (EAC), UNICEF has so far reached 48,000 boys and girls in over 1,200 schools across Syria with levels 1,2, and 3 of the ‘Curriculum B’ programme, helping them catch up on their missed learning between Grades 1 and 6 in half the required time, by combining two academic years in one. More than 4,000 teachers have been compensated for providing summer classes of the programme.  To keep children and teachers safe during COVID-19, UNICEF has also ensured the schools are sanitized daily and has trained representatives from each school on COVID-19 precaution measures.

a boy wearing a mask in a classroom

Abdulkader, 9, attending a UNICEF-supported level 1 ‘Curriculum B’ class in Adnan Almalki school in Hama city, Syria.

“I have had to work to support my mother and sister and never have been to school until now,” said Abdulkader, 9, having finished a UNICEF-supported ‘Curriculum B’ class at Adnan Almalki school in Hama, Syria. Abdulkader was displaced with his family from rural Aleppo due to violence over two years ago. They sought safety in Hama, at a mosque-turned-shelter, then moved out to rent a room in Hama city.

“He prematurely had to become a breadwinner for the family,” said Najwa, the school principal. After having lost contact with the father due to the conflict, Abdulkader’s mother who could not afford to send him to school, had to stay at home to care for his younger sister, causing Abdulkader to work as a construction labourer.

“I found out that I liked learning and that Arabic is my favourite subject,” he says. Last year, after Abdulkader and his mother, heard about UNICEF’s ‘Curriculum B’ programme, allowing children to combine two academic years in one to catch up to their peers, he enrolled in level 1 of the programme.

But in March 2020, with the global spread of COVID-19 pandemic, he was forced out of school again until last month, when the programme was resumed with the needed precautionary measures taken into consideration. “I would never want to be out school again,” Abdulkader emotionally said. “I want to become a civil engineer or an architect after graduating school, so I can still work in construction,” he added.

a teacher helping a child in a classroom, both wearing masks

Najwa, principal of Adnan Almalki school in Hama city helping Abdulkader, 9, during a UNICEF-supported ‘Curriculum B’ class.

“I’m amazed by the determination of these children to continue their education, overcoming the many barriers standing in their way,” said Najwa Almasri, principal of Adnan Almalki school in Hama city. The current health crisis, caused by COVID-19 pandemic, has further hindered the ability of caregivers to support their children’s education after years of violence, displacement and exhausted financial resources.

“Although building the capacity of children in school subjects is important, education goes beyond teaching children a curriculum,” said the principal. “We must also reach out to caregivers and raise their awareness about the impact that learning has on their children’s future.” Najwa’s strength, herself, is inspiring. Despite fleeing violence in Hama city with her family, seeking shelter in the relatively safer outskirts of Hama, she commuted daily to come to school.

a girl writing on a white board

Mariam, 15, solving a math problem during a UNICEF-supported level 2 ‘Curriculum B’ class in Adnan Almalki school in Hama city, Syria.

For students like Mariam, 15, the support and reassurance provided by schoolteachers and principals like Najwa are essential for their learning. Mariam missed out on four years of education, having dropped out of school in Grade 3 due to violence. “My father was scared for my safety, so he stopped sending me to school,” says Mariam.

But with much insistence from Mariam, the support of her mother and Najwa, her father was convinced to enrol her in the ‘Curriculum B’ classes to help her remedy her missed education. Mariam, who during COVID-19 partial lockdown in Syria never stopped learning, would read her schoolbooks and use the internet to look for information that is new to her and useful for her studies. She dreams of becoming a teacher in the future.

a boy wearing a mask in a classroom

Osama, 15, attending a UNICEF-supported level 3 ‘Curriculum B’ class in Adnan Almalki school in Hama city, Syria.

“I’ve felt embarrassed telling people I’m in Grade 6 while I should be in Grade 10,” says Osama, 15, who sat a few classrooms away from Abdulkader’s at Adnan Almalki school in Hama. Osama and his family fled Syria due to violence when he was in Grade 1, seven years ago. Struggling to keep the family afloat, his father could not afford to enrol him at school, causing Osama to miss out on years of learning.

In 2018, when the family returned to their home in Hama, they found out about UNICEF’s ‘Curriculum B’ programme. “Knowing that I’d be able to catch up on my learning in two instead of four years, I was determined to go back to school,” said Osama. Encouraged by his father and his two older brothers, who could not continue their learning due to conflict and displacement, he completes Grade 6 by the end of this summer term of ‘Curriculum B’.

“While staying home during COVID-19 lockdown measures, I couldn’t wait for school to re-open. I had missed learning so much.” Osama is hopeful about successfully passing the upcoming academic year under the ‘Curriculum B’ programme, enabling him to take the national Grade 9 exam afterwards. “I dream of graduating school and becoming a physician or an engineer in the future.”