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UNESCO youth centre offers information, self-expression to Mafraq students

By Dana Al Emam - Feb 20,2016 - Last updated at Feb 20,2016

Finnish Ambassador to Jordan Matti Lassila inaugurates a Youth Information Centre in Mafraq, some 80km northeast of Amman, on Thursday (Photo courtesy of UNESCO)

MAFRAQ — Ninth-grader Asya Omoush has discovered a hidden talent in filmmaking, which she uses in her school subjects, thanks to the newly established Youth Information Centre at her school.

The student at Al Rubaiye Bint Muawith School for Girls in Mafraq, some 80km northeast of Amman, told The Jordan Times that she now uses the computers at the centre to transform the theoretical part of her education into a “more interesting” style that helps her get a better grasp of the material.

The Youth Information Centre, consisting of two renovated computer labs and a library, was established through a UNESCO project with Finnish funding.

It seeks to improve the quality of education by enhancing access to information and self-expression among Jordanian and Syrian students in fragile communities through interactive educational activities, according to UNESCO.

“My leadership and communication skills have greatly improved and I feel I belong more to my school,” Omoush told The Jordan Times Thursday on the sidelines of the official inauguration of the project.

“Our library is now functional and colourful… students feel more connected to it,” she added, as she finished helping younger students get ready for a class at the library.

Omoush and a number of her classmates volunteer at the library to supervise the book circulation process, organise activities and create illustrative material that would help other students understand different topics.

They are among some 2,100 students at the school who benefit from the ongoing UNESCO project, which also includes a capacity-building training programme for 15 teachers on incorporating information technology into education.

Finnish Ambassador to Jordan Matti Lassila noted that the regional project, which is also being implemented in schools in Lebanon and Iraq, amounts to an overall value of 400,000 euros (around JD316,000).

The diplomat said the project is an “excellent” investment that should be developed further in the future, adding that he will report back to his country on the needs of local communities in Jordan.

He told The Jordan Times that such projects are important to alleviating the effects of the Syrian crisis on the region, adding that education is the basis to rebuild society.

UNESCO Representative to Jordan Costanza Farina said the significance of the project, in spite of its limited budget, is that it is a long-term investment in school equipment and the capacities of teachers, who will pass on their knowledge to hundreds of students.

UNESCO’s future projects in the field of education will mainly address higher education, both for marginalised Jordanian students and Syrian students, in addition to informal education for both groups, Farina told The Jordan Times.

Zeyad Nsour, secretary general of the Ministry of Education’s national committee for education, culture and sciences, highlighted the project as a “qualitative contribution” that addresses the needs of the school, which is one of three schools in the area hosting the largest number of Syrian students.

The Education Ministry’s selection of this school for the project was based on criteria that took into consideration the percentage of Syrian students, the age range, the need for an information centre and gender equality considerations.

The school, which is coeducational from the first to the third grade and only for girls from the fourth to the 10th grade, accommodates around 2,100 students, 50 per cent of whom are Syrians, over two shifts, according to school principal Samiha Abu Hjeileh.

 

She said overcrowding and pressure on facilities are the main problems for the school, stressing the need for more teachers to handle the “growing number of students on a daily basis” across the two shifts. 

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