Amman, 5 March 2013 – The life-skills class is packed. Up to 40 women fill the classroom and there is a lively atmosphere as Furdous, their teacher from Iraq, makes them go over the English alphabet yet again.
This class at the informal education project in Amman is a recent addition to the curriculum. As more and more Syrian women brought their families to register at the school, it became evident that the women were also searching to learn practical new skills.
"I welcomed being scolded by a Syrian mother from the Damascus suburbs. At the end of a long conversation, she passionately stated that she didn't want a cash handout from UNHCR [UN refugee agency], but she wanted work and a way to support her family in a dignified manner", explains Colin Gilbert, JRS Jordan Director.
Egged on by this complaint, a course on life skills was organised for Syrian women at the school, and Furdous volunteered to develop a curriculum and teach the class.
"I admire Syrian women. They're very strong, and also powerful in the home, they have a lot of potential", enthused Furdous.
The course focuses on providing Arabic and English literacy skills for women. Most of the women have had little or no access to formal education. They come from socially and religiously conservative backgrounds; when the first life-skills class was held, some of the older women remarked that their place was in the home with their children, that learning was not necessary.
This comment was challenged by one woman, who said, "I always wanted to be a doctor".
"It was encouraging to see this concept being challenged from within the group. Soon the women were debating it amongst themselves and after 45 minutes they had come up with a list of things they wanted to learn in this class", said Colin.
It is hoped that the life-skills class will be a stepping stone towards helping empower Syrian women. JRS Jordan will soon start a community-based learning programme to provide students with specific skills aimed at helping them become financially self-sufficient.
Syrians of all ages comprise 30 percent of the student population in the JRS informal education project in Amman. Iraqis, Sudanese and Somalis also attend the school.
Read more about the school here.