At ‘Little Hands’ Kindergarten Shams finds her Oasis

Thursday 3 July 2014

“This kindergarten is what’s been helping my daughter feel normal like the other children,” said Fayez, a Syrian father of 10 children. His youngest, Shams, was born with Down Syndrome. 

Fayez, who used to work in pharmaceuticals in Syria is a proud father who values the importance of education for his children.

After the heavy violence in Syria disrupted their lives, Fayez and his family decided to flee for safety to neighboring Jordan one year ago, and have been living in Za’atari camp ever since.  

Leaving two of his children behind to finish their university studies in Damascus, Fayez enrolled his other children in schools at the camp. He was specifically seeking a safe place where Shams can learn, make friends, and develop her character.

 

“We needed Shams to have a place where she can learn to be independent and outgoing,” said Fayez, “I feared my daughter would suffer from depression if she stayed home with nothing to stimulate her mind.”

Save the Children is providing Early Childhood Education services through three kindergartens (KGs) in Za’atari camp: Rainbow, Little Hands, and Sunshine. The kindergartens also provide children with a sense of normalcy and community when their lives are disrupted by disasters. Nearly 4,500 children under five are attending Save the Children’s kindergartens each week.

“I wanted an education for my daughter even if her learning abilities are below average for her age,” shared Fayez.

Shams’s parents enrolled her at Little Hands Kindergarten three months ago, and she has been attending regularly since then. Teachers have been working closely with her through visual learning and working to develop her reading skills. This has resulted in learning progression and a boost of confidence in Shams.

“Initially we must make the child feel that he/she is in a secure environment, and we don’t treat them differently than the rest of the children, to make it easier for the child to be accepted among their peers,” said Maysaa a teacher at Little Hands, “we observe the child at all times and use different approaches depending on the child’s learning capabilities.

Shams had been shy when she first started to attend the kindergarten and teachers were aware that her learning capabilities were different from the other children. Step by step, with patience and encouragement from people around her Shams has made remarkable progress in terms of learning and wellbeing.

“She was having difficulties getting comfortable here at first just like all children here who have witnessed intense violence and fear,” said Maysa, “for the child we focus on creating a sense of community within the kindergarten as this classroom represents the bigger community that the child will also be part of as they grow up.”

Shams’s teachers regularly follow up with Shams’s parents about her progress and give feedback on how they could aid in her development after school hours. Shams’s parents are impressed with the progress their daughter has made since joining the kindergarten.

“Shams is back to her old playful self after coming to the kindergarten. She made friends her age, and she knows all the alphabets and days of the week,” explained Fayez, “it makes me so happy to see that she is doing well, she’s my little girl.”

Fayez explained that Shams now gets up early in the morning, follows what she learned at the kindergarten about hygiene by brushing her teeth and washing her face, gets dressed and waits excitingly for her father to walk her to Little Hands. Her family looks forward for Shams to progress even more in hopes of advancing into first grade next year.