As an educator, it is often important to remind ourselves and our students that growth and change are part of the transformations that everyone goes through at various stages of our lives.
However, as an educator for a child in Za’atari, the level of change that has occurred within a significant portion of their short lives flirts dangerously with convincing children that this is what life consists of – loss, destruction, hate, fear, powerlessness, uncertainty, disorientation.
Za’atari educators are faced with a challenging yet privileged role – to offer hope where none is apparent. A teacher allows students to think beyond themselves, their current circumstances and sometimes even their realities through engaging, inspiring and enriching educational experiences.
Children and families are trying to cope in an ongoing situation of uncertainty, with a desire to be able to return home and start fresh or to be able to move on and start anew. However, with limited realistic choices allowing them to pursue either alternative, Za’atari has become the place where they are confined indefinitely. For that purpose, a teacher’s role becomes even more vital as it will be they who opens the eyes, minds and hearts of their students beyond their current day-to-day life.
A Za’atari educator must offer compassion, attention, knowledge and understanding. They must offer an educational program that is designed to meet the needs of children who have suffered more trauma than most adults around the world. Educators have the opportunity to teach for academic and psychosocial gains, and allowing students something significant that they have been without for so long – freedom. Freedom to experience a classrooms that encourages creativity, imagination, flexibility, support and acceptance.
My goal for the Future Learning Spaces within the confines of Za’atari rests heavily under the premise that students here are part of the 21st century education system. As such, every effort should be made to ensure that students are engaging in a variety of learning spaces (the classroom, beyond the classroom, electronic, group and individual), even if there are limitations on what can be carried out.
In addition, an additional focus for the Za’atari learning spaces is to aim for ongoing interactions with the world beyond the camp. Through the use of technology, students can be given opportunities to connect with other learners around the world, along with other experts and educators, in real time or otherwise. The Syrian students and families in Za’atari need to be confident that the skills and knowledge that is being experienced and learnt at school is valuable and has purpose.
By keeping educational programs current and global, the students of Za’atari have an opportunity to transform into the 21st century learners that many of them dream to be.