Early Childhood Education in Za’atari camp gives Fouad a Place to Look Forward To
Five year old Fouad was born with a genetic muscle disease from the waist down that prohibits him from walking or standing up. He has been living in Za’atari camp for seven months, and has been attending Save the Children’s Rainbow Kindergarten for the past five months, on his wheelchair.
Before receiving his wheelchair, Fouad used to stare at the children playing in the kindergarten (KG) from behind the fence and beg his mother to let him join in. As soon as Fouad had his own wheelchair, his mother registered him in the kindergarten. It was Fouad’s first time attending kindergarten.
“I can’t describe the state of joy that took over him after his first day at the kindergarten,” said Fouad’s mother Kefah, “every night before he went to sleep he used to ask me if he was going to the KG the following morning.”
Kefah explained that although Fouad has an outgoing personality, at times his condition lowered his self confidence. She was worried how Fouad would manage without her at the preschool and was afraid that the other children would hurt his feelings due to his condition.
“But the actual opposite happened,” she explained, “At the KG my son was taught to see himself as gifted rather than physically challenged, and the other children at the kindergarten accepted him easily and he quickly made many friends. The kindergarten definitely gave him confidence.”
Fouad has been waking up at 6 o’clock in the morning, brushing his teeth which he learned to do at kindergarten, and getting ready ahead of time to go to preschool. He prepares his schoolbag, coloring books and pencils all of them given to him at the KG, and is ready to go.
“Because I can’t run, I don’t like to play football so I play in the playground outside,” said Fouad who has been learning a lot at the kindergarten. He learned the alphabets, colors, how to count, and small verses of the Quran that his mother helps recite with him at home.
“Yesterday we planted lentils outside of our class” he said, “when my lentils grow I want to give them to my mother to cook lentil soup for me.”
During the time Fouad is in class, his mother joins a number of mothers in parent sessions conducted by Save the Children staff where they learn about parenting and more. She explains that the combination of what she and Fouad were learning separately at the kindergarten, have helped him feel more responsible.
“When I ask him now to watch his younger brother for a moment, he immediately reassures me that he is old enough to do it because he goes to school now,” said Kefah.
“Fouad used to be a little possessive too, he is used to getting his way easily because of his condition so it was a big issue for him to share his belongings and toys with his little brother. Here he learned how to cooperate and that is very evident at home, I really didn’t expect it,” continued Kefah.
Save the Children now run three kindergartens in Za’atari camp that provide early childhood education to nearly 1,700 children a week, all between the ages of three and five.
“My dream is to become a pilot and drive a big airplane. If I drive an airplane now I would want to fly back to Damascus and see my home,” Fouad said, “A pilot must know how to count, and I can do that now.”
Ever since he joined the kindergarten, Fouad has been practicing his alphabets and numbers at home and eager to wake up the following morning to continue his learning journey.