Creating a Safe Space through Early English Education

Zahi Khouri Fellow Michelle teaches a Core AM class about the letter A According to psychologist Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, education is not a base need. For this reason, the education of children is often overlooked in families trying to meet their basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter. Unfortunately, the lack of education deters individuals from moving onto the next set of needs (The Morning Sun). Education, especially of foreign languages, contributes to security of employment, which in turn allows individuals to fulfill their basic needs and move on to the next set of needs, including safety and security of self. At Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, the importance of English education is stressed everyday in our Core AM classes for ages 4 to 6.

Children in Nablus and in the surrounding villages and refugee camps tend to face many difficult situations on a daily basis. Most experience traumas such as, but not limited to, domestic violence, late night house arrests and disruptions, extreme poverty, neglect, parental depression, and poor living conditions. These negative experiences, compiled with the lack of positive experiences, like outdoor play, have serious effects on a child’s brain development. In fact, these lack of positive experiences are believed to have just as great an impact in hindering a child’s brain development as experiencing many traumas

And yet, early childhood is when a person has the greatest potential for learning. Children as young as our 4-year-old participants and younger show a capacity for learning foreign languages that is unmatched by any other age group, but lack a safe and healthy environment to reach this potential.

Education from a young age contributes to a better future. It helps students learn skills, such as English, early on in life rather than struggling to learn them in the future. For example, the children in our Core AM ESL classes are learning simple phrases, including, “Hello. How are you?” and “My name is…” but learning the basics of English so early on in their cognitive development will help them years down the line. In our Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) classes at An Najah University, funded by the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation, we notice that many of our college-aged students were not so privileged as to receive early childhood foreign language development. However, most of them strive to improve their English to be more competitive members of the workforce.

At TYO, we believe that providing such an environment for children, one in which they can develop a strong foundation for their brain development, as well as for their futures. We value teaching English through art and play, not only because it will provide a head start in a growing, English-speaking global economy, but also because it provides yet another outlet of expression with which our children can create positive experiences.

-International Intern, Darializa and Zahi Khouri Fellow, Michelle

This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.