Safeguarding the most Vulnerable Children’s Well-being through a Transition to Online Music Lessons
Music – the igniting force behind child development and well-being…
Music, singing, and melodies play a vital role in our day-to-day lives. You will find music present in all aspects of our lives: theater, television, movies, holidays, ceremonies, rituals, and culture. Music in this sense is a natural and inherent part of our everyday experience.
From the time of birth, parents use music to calm and soothe children, to express their love, and to interact and engage. Music becomes even more important for vulnerable refugee children who are already struggling with the extra burdens of displacement, which are now exacerbated further by the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These children and adolescents have a range from vulnerabilities such as trauma, separation from their families, isolation, distress, and family poverty. Learning and interacting through music can be an accelerator of child development, helping promote intellectual, social, emotional, and language literacy in addition to increasing the overall emotional and psychosocial wellbeing of children.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face to face music courses provided the UNICEF supported ASAM Al Farah Child and Family Support Centre in Gaziantep had to stop. Children were left without music, their peers, their routine, and their teachers. To overcome the negative effects of this kind of isolation imposed on children due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic UNICEF and its partners, with support of US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), transitioned the music classes from face-to-face to online modalities in order to continue providing psycho-social support activities for both refugee and vulnerable Turkishchildren.. Ibrahim Tokmak, a 27-year-old music teacher, has been involved in music for over 17 years. Now he is among the teachers providing music lessons online in support of the most vulnerable girls and boys during these challenging times.
Ibrahim was working at the Al Farah centre prior to the pandemic – “I have been working here for more than two years now teaching music and percussion instruments. It is an amazing feeling to work here. I cannot explain it, you must experience it for yourself. I love my students; we spend a very enjoyable and pleasant time together.”
Osman Alothman, who came from Syria in 2013 when he was 5 years old, has been going to the Al Farah centre in Turkey for 2 years. He is now 10 years old. “I really love going to the Al Farah centre. I feel comfortable when I am there, and I learn new things. I think music and learning to play instruments is very valuable and it comforts me. I felt very bad during this period away from my teachers and friends. But I really like having classes over Zoom, it is very easy. I can’t wait to go back to school and Al Farah.”
Like Osman, 16-year-old Esra Şeyh came from Aleppo to Turkey in 2014. “I came from Aleppo in 2014. Music to me means beauty. Going to the Al Farah makes me so happy. I miss my face to face music classes, they made me feel good says Esra.
The online music lessons ensure that the most vulnerable Turkish and refugee children continue to be in contact with the Al Farah centre services and social workers,as well as their teachers and friends.
Rami Elcasım also attends the online music lessons. “I get so happy when I play an instrument. I started music in 2018. During these times, music helps me feel better while I am at home”, says 14-year-old Rami. Similarly, 7th grader Şehid Harun who wants to be a lawyer when she grows up says that “playing the hand drum makes me feel better. Al Farah is a place that understands children. I am enjoying the online classes.”
Highlighting the benefits of music programmes at AL Farah and the importance of continuing them during the pandemic period, teacher Ibrahim says, “Many of our songs contain messages on world peace and coexistence. Participants emphasize that it is possible to live together and that this world is enough for all of us. Unfortunately, in the humanitarian crises in the world, children are the most affected by the instability of the environment and violence. Music gives our children a distinct opportunity to develop their self-esteem and resilience. They find the opportunity to discover their talents and realize themselves. In this respect, the music activities carried out within The Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM) have proven to be very valuable.”
Through the partnership between UNICEF and ASAM with the support of BPRM 15.368 number of Turkish and refugee children benefitted from music classes since January 2019. Currently, more than 750 children and young people continue receiving music lessons delivered through online platforms as well as face-to-face sessions. The music programme at Al Farah center is one of the ways in which UNICEF, together with its partners, is maintaining support for the well-being of children and young people during these times of limitations and restrictions.
UNICEF and ASAM partnership
UNICEF has partnered with ASAM since 2016 to provide specialized and holistic child protection services to vulnerable Turkish and refugee children and their families through six Child and Family Support Centers in Adana, Ankara, Gaziantep, Izmir and Istanbul and three mobile units in Adana, Istanbul and Izmir, as well as through Child Protection Support Centers in Kayseri, Bursa, Mersin, and Van. Since the beginning of the program, over 640.000 individuals, including 331.893 children, have benefited from screening, identification and safe referral to a range of services including legal and social counselling, health screening, structured mental health and psycho-social support (MHPSS), positive parenting programmes, youth empowerment programmes, and prevention of gender- based violence and child marriage awareness raising sessions.
Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the photos of the children were taken by their families with their own available equipment in their houses.