COVID-19 outbreaks have dramatically impacted education throughout the world, including in refugee camps in Lebanon. Because of the pandemic, many schools and education centers for refugees had to close their doors.
Latter-day Saint Charities saw an opportunity to help by collaborating with Jusoor, a leader in educational programs for Syrian children and youth. With help from Latter-day Saint Charities, Jusoor was able to quickly develop an online education program named “Azima” after the Arabic word for determination.
After some preliminary research, Jusoor determined that WhatsApp would be the best platform for the Azima program. In addition to providing most of the functionality necessary for a successful online learning system, WhatsApp is also widely used among refugee communities.
The program used WhatsApp to help students connect to their teachers. Teachers were also evaluated for their lesson plans, videos, and feedback they provided to the children. This ensured that teachers were effectively administering the program.
Once the program was underway, Jusoor began to investigate engagement and some of the challenges faced by students and their families. One problem was a lack of tools needed to participate in remote learning.
Despite the fact that roughly two thirds of refugee households have a smartphone, they often have only one device per family. In homes with multiple children, this became a big problem, as students often had to rush their work in order to hand off their phone to other siblings.
Another challenge was data usage. Many families struggled to afford the extra data needed for all their children to engage in remote learning.
Jusoor responded by offering a $25-per-month grant to families in the Jurahiya camp. Families could choose to receive their grant via a cash payment, a smartphone rental from Jusoor, or a mobile phone data package. The majority of families chose to use cash on a combination of extra devices and data.
After supplying this grant, Jusoor observed a 16% increase in engagement overall.
Help for Parents
In another effort to increase engagement, Jusoor provided videos and other resources to parents (also via WhatsApp). These resources focused on helping parents create child-friendly learning spaces and time management, and the information was tailored to parents so they wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.
The Azima program was extremely effective, reaching 1,184 refugee children. At the Beirut Centre, average assessment scores over the four classes ranged from 70% to 91%. This means that despite the challenges of at-home learning, students showed a high level of aptitude and substantial progress in math, Arabic, and English.
Latter-day Saint Charities is very pleased to have played a role in helping these children progress in their education—even in the face of extreme adversity.