Mercy Corps offers summer catch-up classes to children with disabilities

An adult writes on a dry-erase board while video chatting with a youth.

During the academic year of 2020, the Ministry of Education in Jordan adopted the “Darsak” online platform, (a free-of-charge education platform that provides students with online video educational materials). This platform was used to allow children to pursue their education from home, since all schools in Jordan were closed because of COVID‑19. The temporary solution has left unmet educational needs for many children with disabilities who cannot follow online classes without close direction and assistance from trained teachers.

Consequently, many of these children were left behind in their respective grades at school, isolated and not included in the educational journey they greatly need. Based on consecutive assessments, Mercy Corps noticed that some children with disabilities didn’t fulfill the goals listed on their Individual Education Plan by the end of May 2020. As a solution, the inclusive education team decided to provide a supplementary program during the summer, to ensure bridging the gap between students with disabilities and their peers.

Accordingly, 373 parents of children with disabilities were identified by phone call surveys who expressed their eagerness to enroll their children in catch-up classes. Out of this number, a total of 309 parents and their children with disabilities from host communities attended the online catch-up classes with the shadow teachers, including 166 males and 143 females. Out of this group, 84 attended live sessions using video conferencing (Teams, Zoom, IMO, and Messenger), which is more than 35% of participating students in live sessions, a much higher percentage than in previous years.

During the catch-up classes, the caregivers’ high commitment and willingness to participate with their children in the sessions was noticed as they provided the session tools in advance after coordination with the assistant teacher. Children were given the choice to either attend virtual live sessions or follow-up later with the recorded classes, both of which cover their mandatory curriculum at school and the identified and listed needs in their individual educational plans (IEPs).

Moreover, to guarantee maximum benefit the inclusive education team provided several recommendations for assistant teachers who succeeded in applying most of them during online sessions. Examples include the use of different types of educational tools and teaching approaches to ensure educational goals were met, utilizing pre-session activities as starters to encourage the child’s interaction in the virtual class, arranging for an adult to be attending the session with the student, and encouraging students to participate in class activities and complete their homework.

The total number of assistant teachers who provided online support to children with disabilities during the catch-up classes was 52 in the host communities. Assistant teachers who were selected had to meet certain criteria that included their availability during the summer vacation, level of proficiency in developing the IEP goals, and level of creativity in developing the educational tools that support children with disabilities.

A young person on a video call.
A student with disabilities, attends virtual Arabic class with a shadow teacher as part of the catch-up classes provided by Mercy Corps’ inclusive education team.

In times when parents couldn’t commit to online live sessions due to personal family reasons, assistant teachers provided parents with tailored worksheets designed for the specific child’s needs, abilities, and IEP, along with instructions on how to fill them out with their child. Another easy approach was providing parents/ caregivers with recorded videos of the sessions for them to follow along with their children. The summer classes allowed children with disabilities to catch up with education lost during the long school closures due to COVID‑19.

Mercy Corps has been leading inclusive education programming for children with disabilities (CWDs) since 2008. Our holistic approach provides Jordanian and Syrian CWDs with personalized support, training educators to identify and assist them with appropriate tools. It also offers Jordanian schools new systems to ensure access to equitable learning opportunities and works with communities to raise awareness around CWDs. Additionally, Mercy Corps plays an active advocacy role in institutionalizing inclusive education policies in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A young person holding educational materials.
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