A TYO Core Program Success Story: Mahmoud and Mohammad

This week, we head into the fourth month of our Spring 2015 Core early childhood education program. It is a great time to look back to the start of the program in February and reflect on the greatest challenges and successes faced thus far. One challenge-turned-success story shared by teachers across TYO's Core program is that of children who enter the program struggling with aggression and hyperactivity, and are now leaders among their peers in classroom engagement and participation. Many of those children come from a difficult home environment that does not offer options outside of a norm of frustration and violence; for example, many young boys in our program struggle with hyperactivity due to living in small and densely populated home and neighborhood environments. TYO’s Core teachers learn how to embrace the children’s energy and guide them to channel their energy towards something positive. TYO’s children learn how to turn their energy and hunger for new experiences into curiosity to learn.

Below is a great example of one such success story. Check out the interview below with Iman, mother of twin 4-year-old brothers Mohammad and Mahmoud in our Core program.


Tell us about Mohammad and Mahmoud before they joined TYO's Core Program. What were they like at home?

To be honest, before we came to TYO, my kids were always playing in the streets of Askar [a refugee camp in Nablus], which are extremely dangerous. I was very frustrated by the situation – I did not want them in the streets, but at home there is nothing for them to do. If I tried to keep them at home, even in front of a computer or TV, they were hyperactive and could not concentrate on any activity; the worst part was that their restlessness would quickly turn into aggression. Mahmoud especially had an unbelievable amount of energy, and he would often break things in our house or become aggressive towards his brother to release that.

How did you hear about TYO's early childhood programs?

I heard about TYO from my sister-in-law, whose child was enrolled. The way she described TYO and its effect on her son, I felt like it was exactly what we needed – a safe and large enough place where they could move, play, and learn how to interact with their peers without being in the street. I was even happier when Futoon [TYO’s Outreach Coordinator] invited me to visit; I was shocked to see how nice of an environment the kids have. It is a huge space, very colorful and child-friendly, and so clean compared to other preschools. I never knew this existed in Nablus.

Can you tell us about any changes you have seen in Mohammad and Mahmoud since they joined TYO’s Core Program?

I cannot tell you how surprised I was to see the change in my kids, and within only a few weeks. One day I picked them up from the center, and their last rotation was in the IT room. At home, Mohammad would never sit still for anything – even in front of a computer – and Mahmoud was even worse. That day they were playing on a computer art program, and I saw in them a level of concentration and sustained interest that I had never seen before.

You will think that I am lying, but I swear! After a few weeks into their first session, Mahmoud and Mohammad completely stopped asking to play in the streets. I think what changed them was really the freedom, space to play, and adult attention they get from the program. Now they are happy to stay home and they talk nonstop about everything they learn at TYO, mainly their IT/computer class and an English computer game called ABC Mouse. They are driving us crazy! [laughing] Everything at home is about TYO. Now, they tell me that we are not allowed to eat junk food; they started asking for bananas and “cocktail” which I learned was a mix of fruits that TYO offers during snack time.

The biggest change I have seen is in their ability to concentrate and hold interest in one activity. They also entered the program knowing nothing about the Arabic alphabet, and now they can name and identify the letters. I see a huge improvement in Mohammad, and he is a good leader for Mahmoud at home. They often sing songs they learn in their classes, especially songs about the alphabet – Mohammad remembers them best, and Mahmoud follows along.

- Interviewed by Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager