By Lian Saifi, Communications Specialist at Generations for Peace
The COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns of schools worldwide. Parents have become the primary educators of their children, as full-time in-person learning in schools remains uncertain for the foreseeable future and the involvement of parents is increasing. Based on the new learning setting, it is crucial for school educators and teachers to collaborate more with parents to enable them to to support students and particularly students with disabilities with their education at home. As the pandemic exposed the vulnerability of the education systems towards the inclusion of children with disabilities in Jordan and around the world, it is the right time to come together to address the issue and join efforts to strengthen the foundations of an inclusive education that welcomes all learners and responds to their needs based on their different capacities.
“Our Jordanian society does not treat persons with disabilities equally in the society. Students with disabilities are often excluded and treated with pity and sympathy. Mothers and fathers live in denial of the support needed and hold lower educational expectations of their children. Some teachers still label students with disabilities as incapable. Persons with disabilities and learning difficulties often face challenges due to the social stigma that is bestowed on them.” Samar Biltaji, Teacher, Al Marj Co-Ed Elementary School, Ajloun.
In 2021, Generations For Peace (GFP) launched The Parents-Teachers Cooperation Programme implemented under GIZ-Promoting Quality in Inclusive Education in Jordan (PROMISE) Programme on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disability, and I am a Human Society for Rights of Disabled People. The six-month program aimed at enhancing the learning outcomes of students, particularly students with disabilities, in light of the COVID-19 situation that affected their learning process.
The program focused on increasing capacities amongst parents and teachers about inclusive Home Learning Activities and at improving collaborative relationships amongst parents and teachers to strengthen existing platforms and strengthen sustainability actions by engaging relevant stakeholders and education communities. The Parents-Teachers Cooperation Program targeted parents and teachers from 6 different schools in Marka, Ajloun and AlKarak field directorates and reached 144 direct and 606 indirect beneficiaries. To kickstart the program activities, a needs assessment for parents and teachers was carried out to identify capacity challenges but also opportunities of existing best practices and knowledge, leading to the development of a set of activities on inclusive home learning and education. In the initial phase, GFP conducted relationship-building online meetings between teachers and parents, to discuss and agree on the best communication platforms, establishing a working group within the existing structures of the schools consisting of teachers, parents, members of Educational Development Council (EDC) and Parents Teachers Associations (PTA), to develop and plan initiatives that enhance the inclusive home learning and education at the selected schools.
“We have benefitted a lot from joining the program because now we also have exercises to fill his time [Son]. We feel that at home, we can give him more support and deal with him better. He has become more receptive, and he has developed increased awareness. The diversity and the participation have helped us. Meeting people from the different governorates and groups encouraged us a lot. We have also benefited from their experiences and how they solve the problems they face. It increased our patience and perseverance also listening to their success stories and achievements.” Amani Al-Momani, Parent, Hittin School, Ajloun.
“The Teacher-Parent workshops improved my skills and knowledge. We learned theoretical information about disability definition and related frameworks in addition to self-management methods. I also learned about organizing activities, teaching methods, and differentiation Instructions. We want to continue delivering the right message and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. To build upon what we have learned, I have already delivered an awareness workshop for teachers and parents on persons with disabilities in my community” Mrs. Nusaibah Al-Momani, Teacher and one of the participants in the Parents-Teachers awareness workshop in Amman.
The closing event organized by GFP on 12 March 2022 included a presentation on the program’s key activities and achievements and hosted a panel discussion on best practices and recommendations. Participants shared their testimonials and experiences in engaging children in home learning activities.
“Firstly, Inclusion is a process. It will take time. As a result, everything that we do whether small or big is a step in the right direction. Parents and teachers are really important, and this project carries a lot of weight and value in reaching this goal. Secondly, through language we foster awareness. I would like to remind us all, to be mindful about the words and terminologies that we use that carry a lot of weight and a lot of power.” Jessica Cary, GIZ-Promoting for Quality in Inclusive Education Advisor.
‘The significance of the program is that it represents the beginning of joining efforts and collaborations towards an inclusive society that ensures that everyone’s voice is heard. We believe that parents, teachers and students are the main pillars in the education process leading towards inclusion, equality and social justice’, highlighted Dr. Mohanned Al-Arabiat, President, Generations for Peace, in his address during the closing event.
” The program enhances the role of teachers, parents and the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA). It re-enforces the relationship between parents and teachers who are key actors in promoting acceptance of persons with disabilities in their communities’,, said” Asia Yaghi, Director of I am a Human Society for Rights of Disabled People.