Additional Learning Spaces: Replacing Labour with Education

Sunday 1 November 2015

Back home in Sinjar 12 year old Diyar and his younger siblings had many friends, neighbors and all attended school together.

“I was in 5th grade, and my favorite subject was music,” said Diyar.

With his family he fled the conflict in Sinjar one year ago to another village. He lived among 2 other families in a bare unfinished building. The only school in the village was in a tent and during the winter months, it was not suitable for children to attend. During that time Diyar missed nearly one year of school.

His family’s situation and living conditions were desperate and according to Diyar, to make the best use of his time he needed to work. He was running a small stall of food in the neighborhood. He worked for long hours, to earn little money in hopes of alleviating some of the financial pressures his family was facing.

“I didn’t want to be working and I knew that I was supposed to be in school instead. I really wished I could be back in school. But working was my only option. Instead of having nothing to do I had to help my family.”

Diyar arrived to Kabarto Camp in Dohuk three months ago with his family. Like the 24,000 IDPs residing in Kabarto, Diyar and his family settled in a tent. Schools in the camp were not open yet and Diyar continued to work. He helped sell food during the day but worked for fewer hours than he used to at the village.

“I was working and watching the construction of the school,” he said, “Everyday I watched the construction workers build it a little at a time, and it made me happy. I couldn’t wait to carry my schoolbag and walk into a classroom.”

When the school structure was complete and the time for registration began, Diyar was eager to enroll and resume his education. Four schools were established in Kabarto. However, as children make up nearly half of the camp’s population, spaces at the schools are limited.

Diyar was one of the children denied registration at the formal school, but instead of being denied an education, he was offered a space at Save the Children’s Additional Learning Spaces (ALS), built within the school premises.  

With support from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), Save the Children has established Additional Learning Spaces across all the schools in the camp reaching 2,000 school eligible children. Using the formal teaching curriculum, the centres allow students to catch up on subjects that they have missed, to prepare them for the next school year.

“I’m actually very happy to be enrolled at the centre, because we are only 12 students in the classroom, while the school classrooms have over 50 children crowded inside,” he said “learning is much more fun here, and much easier to pay attention to the lesson.”

The ALS teaches students the same subjects as the school, like English, Arabic, Sciences, and Math. Teaching is done in both Arabic and Kurdish depending on what the children feel more comfortable with, as the teachers are bilingual. The centre runs three daily shifts of different age groups.  

“Each shift comprises of around 12 students and last for one and a half hours,” said Khaled a teacher at the centre, “At the centre we use an active learning approach, which works best with the number of students who are attending. Along the lesson, I initiate discussion and engage the children to keep them focused and maximize their learning experience within that timeframe.”

Since he registered in school, Diyar stopped working. He has been eagerly going to school every day and made friends with his new classmates.

“School is important to me because if I want to be successful when I’m older I need knowledge and to excel at reading and writing,” shared Diyar.