Modern Teaching Practices Spur 15-Year Old to New Beginnings

February 24, 2011

Safaa is 15 years old and lives in the small village of Abou Harb, 50Km north of Menia. Dropping out of school at 10 years old, she had received little education, and was intimidated by teacher attitudes. “I believe the school environment was the main reason I dropped out. Mainly, I didn’t feel that I was learning anything. Teachers preferred using force and intimidation instead of listening to the students. I wasn’t able to understand a thing during class, and was constantly so scared.”

Safaa passed from grade to grade due to a law that stipulates that a student cannot be held at the same grade level for more than 2 years. She was then transferred within the system to Abou Harb School, one of 44 primary schools in Menia governorate receiving USAID assistance through the Technology for Improved Learning Outcomes Project (TILO). Through TILO, USAID has provided school management, teachers, administrators and supervisors with intensive, hands on training on effective teaching methods (Student Centered Learning, Classroom Management, Critical Thinking) and leadership. Furthermore, each school is equipped with an effective technology model and a Digital Resources package, which aims at helping teachers integrate technology in learning to improve student-learning outcomes.

Safaa was apprehensive about returning to school, however the encouragement she received from the Abou Harb staff, social workers and students was overwhelming.

“I thought many times of going back to school, especially since my new school is very close to home. But at the time, my parents said I was too old to go back and that I’ll soon get married and have a home of my own. I still felt something missing from my life, and it was difficult for me to see my peers at the preparatory level going to school every day, while I stayed home.”

Safaa_Quote Safaa “School social counselors, Ms. Nadia Edward and Ms. Heba Hussein sent some 6th grade girls from the school to convince me to return. From them I heard of all the positive changes in the school such as computers, new programs, activities, and no intimidation by teachers.” Upon returning to school, Safaa was surprised by the changes in mindset, in teaching practice, and in the classroom environment as a whole. Although she was overwhelmed to be returning to the 6th grade after leaving school in the third, the changes she witnessed motivated her greatly to overcome her obstacles. “My first impression was my amazement with the class set up. The girls were sitting in groups, thinking together, discussing, and working as a team. No punishment, no intimidation, and everyone trying to help each other learn.”

Attending classes with teachers who have been well trained to integrate the use of technology in their everyday teaching, is a significant shift for most students and for Safaa, it was exactly what she needed to give her a new outlook on learning. “To my amazement, we spent our science lesson in the TILO lab, and the teacher demonstrated experiments on the computer. I was amazed and excited. I began to work on a computer for the first time in my life, using software called Crocodile. The following lesson was math, and we used the Geo-Gebra program. Since then, I decided to stay in school and challenge all obstacles before me. “

Safaa had the unique chance to tell her story to the USAID Mission Director, Mr. Jim Bever, on a surprise visit to Abou Harb School. “It was a really nice visit and had a huge impact on me. People came from such a far off place to visit our school, and spend time to talk to me! It really made a difference to me personally. I felt important and people were interested in listening to me and what I had to say.”

“I have something to say to every girl thinking of dropping out of school: you will regret every day you spend away from school and from learning, for the rest of your life. I am very happy and would like to thank everyone who helped me and encouraged me to return to school. “Thank you TILO for helping my school to change and for helping me to learn again.”

For additional information on the Creative Associates-implemented TILO project, please see Chief of Party Andrea Bosch’s article published in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of International Education, “Introducing Learning Technologies into Egyptian Schools: Where There is Demand, There is a Way.”

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