Heba's Journey to Education
Heba, a 10-year-old girl, is a displaced student from Idleb. She was born with a physical disability and has difficulty with movement, including walking, and dressing herself. When she turned six years old, she could not enroll in formal school as the distance of her school from her home made it impossible to reach due to her challenges with walking. The war and ensuing displacement of her family have only made matters worse.
Heba moved with her family to live in an IDP camp in Idleb. While never having attended a formal school, she has engaged in non-formal learning over the past years. Heba joined the self-learning programme (SLP) supported by UNICEF and funded by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) in 2022. The programme was tailored based on the different needs of children like Heba and blended learning approach which includes home-based and remote learning modalities. Teachers visited children at their home in the campsites once a week and provided them with the follow-up and support remotely.
Once a week, Heba’s teacher used to visit her at home, a simple tent in which she lives with her family. Heba was initially shy and fearful, but through positive reinforcement and support, her teacher encouraged her to participate in activities and lessons. Heba began to enjoy learning to write letters and numbers, and correctly spell words.
Every time the teacher would visit, Heba would gladly welcome her. Bringing her school bag over, taking out her books, and asking the teacher questions on the most recent assignment. Heba was receiving her lessons from the teacher, reviewing them at home, working on writing jobs, solving assignments, and following up with the teacher through WhatsApp groups. After several months, Heba became proficient in writing letters, writing words, and constructing sentences on her own, without anyone's help.
The visits of the supervising teacher boosted Heba’s morale to continue her educational process, enhance her self-confidence, and work on self-development. In each visit, she tells the teacher, with joy and pride, how she was able to draw a letter, write a word, or solve the exercises that the teacher had previously provided to her as homework. Above all, Heba was able to break the barrier of fear she once lived in. She expressed her interest in leaving the safety of her home and returning to a normal school environment to continue her path within formal education.
Heba’s mother says: "This education programme (SLP) has provided learning opportunity to students who are out of school due to war, insecurity, unavailability of schools within walking distance, overcrowded schools and classrooms, and poverty. These lessons and the psychosocial support activities have restored hope, happiness, love of success, and a wonderful sense of achievement for my daughter."
"Our feeling is the same as that of many parents whose children have dropped out of schools, and such programmes push us to support the educational teams’ work and facilitate their success and continuity. We hope that the self-learning programme will continue because it is the best solution," her father added.
Heba wants every child who faces difficulties in accessing education, for whatever reason, including disability, to know that "they should not be controlled by fear or shame, and not to let bullying or difficulty keep them from their education”.
With the generous support of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), UNICEF-supported non-formal education programmes aiming to increase access to equitable learning opportunities for children aged 6 to 18 years at eight learning centres in 2022 in Idleb and Aleppo. The programme provided 7,000 children with a package of non-formal education opportunities using self-learning programme curriculum and psychosocial support, and 157 teachers with professional development opportunities. Heba is one of the 230 children with disabilities who benefited from the programme and who never gave up on learning despite of their disabilities.