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Education during COVID-19: Coping with the pandemic in Jordan, Samar Nazzal’s story

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JFO teacher: UNRWA teacher Samar Nazzal photographed with her students. © 2019 UNRWA photo

The numbers are unprecedented, the implications enormous. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 91 per cent of students worldwide. Never before have so many children been out of school at the same time, disrupting learning and upending lives, especially of those most vulnerable and marginalized.

Today, talented teachers are what the world needs most. UNRWA is determined to continue education services for Palestine refugee children, building on the strengths of its seven-decade education system and drawing on its renowned Education in Emergencies approach with the support of our teachers.

Samar Nazzal, a Palestine refugee physics and robotics teacher at the UNRWA Irbid Town Preparatory Girls’ School in Jordan is one such individual. She has gone the extra mile to make sure her students never stop learning. She worked hard to introduced her students to new information and knowledge, actively supporting their talents and boosting their abilities to match their potential.

Samar introduced a robotics programme to expose her students at the UNRWA Irbid Town Preparatory Girls School to physics in technology. Each year, she assigns her female students to a robotics research challenge focused on finding solutions to different global problems. Samar’s students responded with innovative excellence and conscientious leadership. One of her students went on to win first prize in an Arab-world science and engineering competition. She has also inspired a lifelong love for science in her students, some of whom are physics teachers in UNRWA schools!

“COVID-19 was a sudden situation that we didn’t expect, but we’ve tried to use all available resources to continue educate our students,” explained Ms. Samar. Months of sitting at home with no access to the outside world provided a unique challenge to teachers, who have worked non-stop to produce useful materials that students utilize to ensure that they are staying on time with their curricula. Samar used social media platforms to carve out an educational space and used self-learning materials to track retention and progress.

“She didn’t leave us,” said Raghad Al-Khateeb, one of Samar’s students. “Ms. Samar spared no effort to transfer information and monitor our assignments during the lockdown. Without her support, we would have never managed to pass through this hardship,” Raghad continued.

Despite trying hard to ease the process of learning remotely, the scarcity of tools and devices remains a challenge for some refugees. “Technology is the future,” said Ms. Samar. “We relied on our students’ high capabilities and proficiencies to learn and cope with this new situation and overcome these obstacles,” Samar continued.

UNRWA teachers have been as source of inspiration for more than seventy years. More than 4,000 teachers bring the Agency’s quality, inclusive education to more than 115,000 Palestine refugee students in UNRWA 169 schools across Jordan. This World Teacher’s Day, UNRWA is proud to honour teachers like Samar would make education possible day in and day out for Palestine refugees across the Middle East.