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Can’t Wait to Learn@Home: A Whole New World

Majid (12) and Sahar (13) fled the war in Syria to seek refuge in Lebanon. Today, they live next door to each other in a refugee camp in the heart of the Bekaa Valley. Two years of COVID-19, on top of a fraught economic crisis, forced the two friends to drop out of school. With tensions high at home, they felt trapped by their environment - until they started following our Can’t Wait to Learn@Home programme...

© Ralph Dargham

Stress at Home

Majid and Sahar had always been close. But, suddenly, the stress of the situation was showing itself in difficult emotions and arguments - mirrored by the mood at home.

Their parents, feeling the full force of the multi-pronged crisis, had no other option but to take their eldest out of school. They could barely put food on the table, let alone afford the costs of education.

There was talk in the neighbourhood of boys taking up work to support their families. Majid felt pressure to go down this path but missed his school and teachers dearly. When a Can’t Wait to Learn facilitator knocked on his door with a tablet and an instructional manual, Majid couldn’t hide his excitement. He ran round to Sahar’s to share the good news, and so they began learning together.

© Ralph Dargham

Strong Bond Forming

The manual - filled with tips and tricks on how to play the educational games - is designed to be used by parents and caregivers to support their children’s learning journey.

When periods of lockdown did occur, the two friends would also receive support via their mothers’ mobile phones. “The facilitators couldn’t meet the children in person so we’d use WhatsApp”, says Lamia Doueihy, Technical Education Officer for Can’t Wait to Learn in Lebanon. The benefit of that was that it also encouraged parents to engage with their children.”

“What I witnessed was a strong bond forming between mother and child but also the whole family unit”, she continues. “They’d wake up early, prepare the materials together and follow the songs and animated videos; singing along in unison.”

Ready, Set, Game World

When the two friends play the educational games, they feel as if they have entered a whole new world - one free from the stressors around them. In this new world, there is still an element of familiarity - the games are co-created with local refugee children ensuring the storylines, settings and characters reflect their unique realities.

“The storylines might be based on fantasy, but they draw on real-life challenges and scenarios.”

While Majid loves the maths modules - “I am now able to count to 100!” - Sahar’s favourite is the Arabic games where she can listen to and read stories. “The stories might be based on fantasy, but they draw on real-life challenges and scenarios”, reiterates Lamia. “This equips children with the social and emotional skills to deal with these challenges, which, in the absence of a school environment, is so important.”

© Ralph Dargham

Facing Life’s Challenges

And with everything from inflation to electricity outages placing a strain on daily life, Sahar and Majid need these skills more than ever. “I hope that I will be able to pursue an education”, says Sahar. “I want to learn new things and be a successful person.”

“I don’t know about that”, responds Majid. “I’m afraid this situation will last.

“But at least I have my tablet. I’ve never skipped a session. I keep it safe and make sure to charge it when there is electricity.”

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