World Vision: How Education Inspired Peace for Two Refugee Children

Five-year-old Kheir outside World Vision’s Early Education Program in the Bekaa area in Lebanon. ©2017 World Vision/photo by Josephine Haddad   

Five-year-old Kheir outside World Vision’s Early Education Program in the Bekaa area in Lebanon. ©2017 World Vision/photo by Josephine Haddad

For Kheir and Mhamad, school had a different meaning than it holds for many children. It was not just a place for education; it was a getaway, a place where they could live their childhood.

The alternative for Kheir, 5, was gathering plastic and nylon from the sides of the road and then selling them to the local buyers who are interested in recycling. As for Mhamad, 6, it was collecting potatoes from the field for hours and hours every day.

But thanks to determined parents and World Vision’s “Early Children Education” program, both boys were introduced to the world of education.

Kheir’s story

“He’s the only one in the family who stands the chance of having a good future. All of our hopes are pinned on Kheir,” said his mother Souraya, 37. None of his eight older siblings had the chance of receiving schooling, neither in Syria nor in Lebanon. Kheir comes from a big family. His father remarried and had children from his second wife. He no longer supported Souraya’s children, who are all minors, especially after both families fled to Lebanon from Aleppo in 2011.

Souraya heard about World Vision’s “Early Children Education” program, which is based on activities that give vulnerable children the opportunity to be successful in life. It develops their skills and hobbies through a curriculum for children ages 3 to 6 that includes learning letters, sounds, colors, songs, and numbers. The classes take place in seven different informal tented settlements in the Bekaa area. Souraya registered Kheir, as he was within the correct age range. But Kheir’s older brothers had to gather plastic and sell it in order for their family to survive. They often asked Kheir for his assistance in certain neighborhoods.

“He begs me to go to school instead of work, because he likes it there more,” said Souraya.

“I make $7 on most days. I use it to buy bread and water for my family,” said Kheir, who has asked his brothers if he can work with them after school, so he doesn’t miss classes.

“It isn’t just about food,” Souraya interrupted, “ Kheir stopped being violent with other children. He cares more about his personal hygiene and nothing makes him happy like getting good remarks from his teachers. ”

“The school is like a sanctuary to him and I encourage that,” said Souraya.

Read Mhamad's Story and more here

FHI360: Salahudeen discovers his love for reading

Salahudeen reading 

Salahudeen reading 

Katsina, Nigeria: It is a typical school day in Take-Tsimi, a village in northern Nigeria. In Take-Tsimi primary school, a student named Salahudeen is called upon to read aloud in class. He stands up and does so with confidence, serving as a role model to the other children in his class. Over the last school year, Salahudeen has been sharpening his reading skills through participation in the Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA).

RANA is a three-year pilot project on Hausa language reading and numeracy, implemented by FHI 360 as part of UNICEF’s Girls Education Project Phase 3 (GEP3) with funding support from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID). RANA is implemented in collaboration with the governments of Katsina and Zamfara states, and it aims to improve literacy and numeracy for girls and boys in primary grades 1-3 by assisting approximately 200 formal schools and Integrated Qura’nic Schools.

A local education official noticed Salahudeen’s exceptional reading performance during a routine RANA monitoring visit. Salahudeen explained, “I have always admired people when I see them reading. When our teacher started teaching us RANA lessons, I paid attention so that I can also read.”

In addition to dedicating himself to his RANA classes, Salahudeen began saving portions of his lunch allowance so that he could buy his own reading material. He is now the proud owner of six books. Although his father attested that Salahudeen had always been a good student, he also believed that the RANA program enhanced Salahudeen’s interest in reading. “The RANA lessons have made Salahudeen more hardworking and to love school,” his father said. “I will support his education to any level within my means. I am very grateful to RANA for giving school a new meaning.”

Learn more here:

Salahudeen reading in class

Salahudeen reading in class

URC: "Enabling Writers Workshop" is bridging the book gap

New books, written and illustrated for first and second graders in their native Hausa language, will soon reach thousands of Nigerian school children and positively impact their need to learn how to read. The 200 books were created by some 37 local writers, trained to develop high-quality books using Bloom book-producing software, program through the Enabling Writers Workshop Program (EW), an innovative initiative funded by the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) partners – the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Vision, and the Australian government – and implemented by University Research Company's Reading within Reach (REACH) project.  

According to 2017 statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 387 million primary school-age children worldwide are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading, even though two-thirds of them attend school.  One key factor is the lack of appropriate reading materials in a language the children can understand.  The REACH EW program demonstrates a low-cost sustainable solution to this challenge.  Currently implemented in six countries - Nigeria, Haiti, Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal - more than 2,000 titles have been created in eight languages. Work is currently under way to create an additional 1,400 titles in seven languages.

EW partner American University of Nigeria is working in the states of Bauchi and Sokoto to promote the Hausa book titles. EW Pedagogy Lead, Dr. Grace Malgwi, explained that “the plan is for the over 4000 public primary schools in these two states to be the first beneficiaries of the printed version of the books. Additionally, with internet access and the availability of computers and tablets growing, another 2000 public schools where Hausa is a home language might receive the books in a digital form.”

Dr. Grace Malgwi, EW Pedagogy Lead at American University Nigeria, conducting a training session on the Bloom book producing software

Dr. Grace Malgwi, EW Pedagogy Lead at American University Nigeria, conducting a training session on the Bloom book producing software

Quality assurance processes are applied in every stage of book creation, including through a rigorous field testing process in schools.  Before writing, the EW team works with national ministry of education (MoE) to establish letter scope and sequence and book levelling criteria reflecting the national reading curriculum.  Draft EW books are then subjected to multiple content reviews including for context relevance, story sequence and illustrations, gender inclusiveness, and appropriate representation of individuals with disabilities.  Teachers and students then provide feedback on the appropriateness of books for the target group and instructional use.   

Primary school teacher Auwal Nasir says students and teachers at his Yakubu Muazu Model School in Sokoto are excited about the new books’ simple, interesting and level-appropriate language and text. “The books are bridging the gap, and the pupils can read and enjoy the books in and out of class,” he said, adding that teachers not involved in the field testing process of the book production have borrowed the books from him to read with their classes.

Books created through the Enabling Writers program will be open-licensed for sharing, electronic use and large-scale printing and uploaded to the Global Digital Library (an initiative of Global Book Alliance with Norwegian Development Agency), the Bloom library and other digital library platforms.  Educators and families around the world will be able to access, use or translate the books to their own language.  

The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) are working to officially adopt the EW books.  Dr. Garba Gandu of NERDC says EW received “a warm reception and positive recognition. It is very relevant and invaluable to the current reading initiatives in Nigeria.”  There are budgetary, distribution and curriculum issues to iron out, but Dr. Gandu believes the “urgent need to get [the books] into the school system should not be downplayed. This can be hastened and achieved in under two to three months by special intervention.”                                                        

The Enabling Writers initiative has potential to provide access to large numbers of high-quality books in underserved mother languages throughout the world. Watch for further project updates on the Global Reading Network website.