Helene (left) has been working with JRS Jordan for nearly one year as a volunteer. She single-handedly coordinated the evening classes in 2012, which are now incorporated into the newly restructured informal education programme. Helene is hopeful the new system will foster mutual respect and understanding amongst the diverse refugee communities present at the JRS school in Amman (Bradley Williams/JRS)
Amman, 1 March 2013 – Abu Hassan has been the director of the informal education project for nearly five years. In its early years, the school in Ashrafiyeh catered only to Iraqi refugees. But as Jordan hosts more refugees, the JRS school has adapted to the changing situation.

The influx of Sudanese, Somali and Syrian students into the school in 2012 created many challenges. For the first time ever, there was a need for literacy classes, which many Sudanese refugees found impossible to attend due to their employment as casual labourers. So last November, JRS decided to suspend classes until early 2013 to restructure the curriculum to meet the needs of all its students.

"The new system is much better, administratively and amongst the teachers too, there is more of a balance between the afternoon and evening classes", explained Helene Sergeant, a Belgian volunteer responsible for the coordination of evening classes for Sudanese and Somali students.

Before the restructuring afternoon classes were well established and supported by an administration team, while evening classes were managed on a more ad hoc basis by one person. The amalgamation of the two sessions into a cohesive educational programme was a necessary step towards providing quality education services to all the refugee communities in Amman.

The school now has two sessions from which students can choose: one in the afternoon and another in the evening. This means that students who are able to find daytime employment can still attend classes. All students are offered English language and computer classes, women can also take courses in life-skills, and children enrol in music and art classes, sports activities, and kindergarten.

Abu Hassan shows his extensive list of students; in total 690 enrolled in the current nine-week session, followed by exams, a short one-week break, after which next term commences.

"The new system is much better. It was an important change we had to make", said Abu Hassan.

Teachers at the school are predominantly Iraqi, but Syrian, Somali and Sudanese refugees, as well as Americans and Europeans also volunteer as teachers or administrative staff.

"It's important that members of each of the communities we serve be involved in the running of or teaching in the school. It helps students feel represented and comfortable approaching the staff", added Helene.

Although it is not always easy to meet the needs of such diverse refugee communities, the school not only encourages learning, but fosters a culture of respect and understanding among different cultures, religions and ethnic groups.

Zerene Haddad, JRS Middle East and North Africa Communications Officer