By Annette Quinn and Natasha Abdel-Baki

While we don’t have all the details of Adnan’s* arrival into Lebanon, we know he travelled through Arsal and entered the refugee settlements approximately two year ago.  We also know he is a child, who without choice, makes up that devastatingly high statistic of ‘missing out on education’.

65 million children are affected by emergencies and crisis around the world, experiencing disruption to their education. 37 million children are missing out on school on a longer term basis

Adnan’s migration and settlement into the camps has meant he has been absent from school and learning for the last two years.  Today, Adnan is still not enrolled in a formal education setting and sadly he, along with so many others will continue to miss this basic human right.

75% of refuges currently in Lebanon are women and children. 417,000 are aged three and 14 years. Lebanon has capacity for less than half of these children in their schools.

Adnan appeared at an Educational Centre for the first time in early 2017.   He looked like any other child and on a good day he was just that – a boy keen to join in.  However, he became well known by the Centre staff for his high levels of hyperactivity which were sometimes described as chaotic activity.  On many occasions, and sadly those occasions began to outweigh the good days, Adnan was decidedly disruptive – a child acting out his anger, pent-up with negativity.

Beyond The Education Remit

Addressing the education needs of children in the settlements in Lebanon is only part of the picture. With the Syrian refugee crisis now in its fifth year and displaced families with no end in sight to their instability there is an increase in psychological distress in young people.  Education Centres therefore have a vital and wider role than teaching and learning.  They are a ‘safe place’ for children (and often mothers and women) to seek help or advice.

For Adnan, the start of his journey began with learning basic hygiene and socialization skills:

  • The prevention of the spread of illness and disease in education settings is paramount to sustainable teaching and learning, so teaching hygiene standards to children living in challenging environments, is a fundamental starting point for most who enter the Centre.
  • Having no memory of school, Adnan had no understanding of the structure of a school day and the typical rules (written and unwritten).  Given this missing information in Adnan life to date, he was supported by psychologists to adapt to the Centre in order to be able to take up the education on offer.

Lack of basic amenities, protection from the cold, security, dense living, social isolation, physical and/or psychological violence, child labour and exploitation and the possibility of large-scale disease continue to cause anxiety

While the psychologists were fundamental for supporting his presence at the Centre, it was the arrival of the Breteau Foundation’s tablet technology that caught Adnan’s interest and motivated him to adhere to ordinary classroom rules.

Teachers in the first instance, chose learners who were able to understand and appreciate the rules for using the technology.  Engagement in these rules divided learners into two groups.  In Adnan’s case he showed great enthusiasm for the technology but lacked interest to engage with the rules.  Therefore, he was denied use of the technology a punishment from his perspective was harsh but a boundary that the Centre needed to sustain.

A system of point recording for Adnan’s behavior was agreed with him.  It included a clear link to rewards (access to the technology) and sanctions (no access to the technology).  The aim was to help motivate Adnan to make the right decisions about his action and enjoy the rewards for his good behaviour. It was clearly noted by the Centre staff, that progress in the right direction didn’t take long!

Adnan began to build a collection of ‘stars’ rather than ‘black points’ and within a short period of time, he began to enjoy the use of the tablets regularly and as a consequence he began to engage in his own learning.

While the turnaround of Adnan, is a great example of what we know as team around the child, the Head of the Centre, Abeer Ezelldine confidently suggests that the tablets were the key motivator to Adnan wanting to change.

While there is a solid evidence-base to suggest the enthusiasm for tech-supported inquiry is high amongst children we also note in our project schools in South Africa, a direct correlation between attendance levels on tablet technology days.  We are currently measuring this data.

When a learner is self-motivated to travel in the right direction taking up the support offered and needed, it is then that the support will yield benefits and a positive impact can be seen.

*Names have been changed in this story to protect children’s identities.