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Success in a challenge: Musatafa’s story

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LFO teacher - Mustafa Mustafa in his home during a distance learning lesson. © UNRWA photo by Maysoun Mustafa

“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and the closure of schools in Lebanon, we’ve engaged in distance learning, through the UNRWA Self-Learning Programme. We’ve been using educational materials specifically developed by the Agency to support student learning during this pandemic,” says Mustafa Mustafa, a mathematics teacher in Nahr el-Bared camp.

Despite the difficulties facing teachers at the time, Mustafa is embraced the challenge. “I’ve been in the teaching profession for 23 years, all in UNRWA schools. I’ve experienced teaching in emergencies, during displacement of Nahr el-Bared camp, and then the displacement of Palestine refugees from Syria to Lebanon. Even with all this experience, distance education is the most challenging of all and requires more preparation and work from our side,” Mustafa shared. “The basic elements of education are just not available, including the classroom environment and the physical interaction between the student and teacher, so we’ve to think outside the box to keep the students engaged," he added.

In line with the Agency’s the Self-Learning Programme, we enabled students and teachers to remain connected while staying safe at home. “While distance learning​ can be less​ efficient than face-to-face learning, it’s far better than dropping education completely and we are dedicated to making it a success. We have implemented this programme as part of our commitment to the right of every child to education, so that students are not left behind,” says Mustafa.

“We share diverse learning materials online, including educational games and are in contact with students and their parents to follow up with them on any questions, concerns and feedback,” explains Mustafa. In this remote-teaching role, Mustafa keeps an eye out for students who may be struggling academically or psychologically during this difficult period. Together with UNRWA school counsellors, teachers are on hand to provide advice and support. They regularly send positive messages, motivational content, academic certificates and encouragement, in addition to preventative information about COVID-19.

Mustafa believes that one of the biggest challenges at this time is keeping up the motivation levels of his students. “In traditional learning, students came to class regularly and I used different techniques to keep them motivated and engaged. Now with remote learning, it’s a bigger challenge and we’ve adapted our approach to match that challenge. We use different methods for motivation these days, such as sharing certificates of appreciation and success with student groups via social media. This method creates competition among them and gives them a chance to motivate each other,” he explained, adding, “Parents who had big concerns about online learning were delighted to see these new initiatives.”

Ranin Atieh, an eighth-grade student at the UNRWA Toubas School said, “We love teacher Mustafa. He’s very inspiring. He always tells us that we can achieve anything, even when we are surrounded by challenges that we think are impossible to overcome.”​​

“Education is a responsibility shared by all of us: students, teachers and parents. Our job is difficult but together we can overcome all the challenges and be well prepared for next year,” concludes Mustafa. This World Teacher’s Day, UNRWA is proud to honour teachers like Mustafa would make education possible day in and day out for Palestine refugees across the Middle East.