Anera, with the support of UNICEF, helps train teachers of students with learning disabilities
"A child, a teacher, a pen, and a book can change the world." — Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani education activist
This program is supported by UNICEF and funded by Germany through the German Development Bank KfW.
As a result of the country's 2019 economic collapse, Lebanon's unemployment rate has nearly tripled. Three out of four people in Lebanon are now living in poverty.
The unemployment crisis has impacted Lebanon's health, industrial, and educational systems. The education sector, hard hit by the crisis, has lost a large number of skilled educators as many demoralized teachers move abroad in search of work.
The exodus has left a gap in early intervention support and education services for children with learning disabilities.
UNICEF and ILO have completed their community based market assessment in 2022 with UNICEF’s partners Anera which identified education and specialized education as one the key labor market sectors.
This was also highlighted by Anera’s local partner Al Mouwasat Association assessment which looked into the local labor market and categorized the need for specialists in early intervention. Many schools and teachers are struggling to provide the support that hundreds of students need. “We initiated this training with Anera through the UNICEF-supported project on early intervention,” explains Houda Nakouzi, the project supervisor at Al Mouwasat, to fill this shortage of early intervention specialist educators in the job market.
Early intervention describes the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and may include speech therapy, physical therapy, and other types of services based on the needs of the child. Early detection and intervention can greatly influence a child's ability to learn new skills and overcome obstacles, which can improve success in both school and life. The key is giving teachers the skills and experience to identify students with learning disabilities and provide educational services tailored to their needs.
"Parents in past generations used to hide [special needs] children, but nowadays more parents are aware that their children can be helped and deserve an equal chance in education.”
— Houda Nakouzi, Al Mouwasat Houda
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Anera implemented the teacher training program in collaboration with the Al Mouwasat Association in Saida, southern Lebanon, and with the support of UNICEF and funding from Germany through the German Development Bank KfW. The program focused on special education, speech and language therapies, cognitive skills, occupational and behavioral therapies for youngsters in kindergarten and grade school. The course also provided training on social and life skills for the teachers.
The program has already graduated its first class of 20 vibrant young teachers to the field of early intervention education. Most are women and Lebanese citizens, with four Palestinians and two men also among the 20 teachers that received the new training. They are already encouraging other young educators to follow their example and enroll in Anera's vocational courses. To date, nine of the top students were formally employed at the Dohat Al-Makassed School, which is known for its strong special education department.
Nakouzi says the training program emphasized the different roles of a teacher and a specialist. “We also incorporated a psychological component to help teachers better cope with their own tensions and not transfer their personal stress to their students.”
Nakouzi stresses the importance of early intervention. In conversations with principals and teachers, she notes an increase in special cases, ranging from autism and other mental issues to attention deficit disorders. “Available anecdotal information suggests that parents in past generations used to hide their children with disabilities, but nowadays parents are becoming more aware that their children can be helped and deserve an equal chance in education.”
Nakouzi says most schools lack the expertise to handle children with special needs. ”For many teachers, their solution was to hand the children over to school management to deal with.” This program is helping to change that.
Hussein, a Master of Education student in the course, was appreciative of the new skills he learned there. "We learned great strategies for education and classroom management and how to detect learning challenges that I am applying in my work. And I also learned how to develop my social skills and personal development in order to maintain my calm with my students, no matter what is happening in my personal life."
“At a time when Lebanon's economic and labor crises are getting worse, I consider myself fortunate to have found a job,” says Rawan, a licensed educator who found a job after completing the training. "And, in the training, I learned the important role of humor in the classroom and the benefit of doing activities that are both fun and educational."
This is especially critical in Lebanon now. “The stressful living and economic conditions in Lebanon these days can influence our children’s learning abilities,” Rawan says. “They absorb the stress and tension. Early intervention is especially important now because there is a generation of children who only went to school ‘online’ and lost the benefits of face-to-face learning and socializing.
"I learned the important role of humor in the classroom and the benefit of doing activities that are both fun and educational."
Hana Jumaa, the principal of Dohat Al-Makassed School, says the teachers they have hired after the training were able to share their knowledge and build the capacity of the rest of the school’s staff. "They even taught us skills and tricks for relaxing and controlling our emotions, in and out of the classroom."
Jumaa was so impressed with the skills and knowledge the early intervention-trained teachers gained from the course that she has decided to offer them extended job contracts.