A Family Affair: Evaluating the Holistic Approach to Education

TYO’s Academic Support Services Program has just begun and is already promising to be a rewarding session. This program provides students between the ages of 9-14 with educational lessons in English, math, and Arabic, as well as homework support. We have many return students and are welcoming new faces to program this fall. Take a look at how TYO’s holistic approach to education can impact entire families and improve relationships in this week’s interview with Wafa, who has two daughters enrolled at TYO, Reem and Aya.

Many of the students who join TYO face academic challenges and have issues with self-confidence. Overstretched education systems often lack the resources to provide students with the one-on-one support they need to overcome these barriers. Wafa’s story about her family’s experiences at TYO reveals how our multilevel programming works on different fronts to provide students with the tools to excel academically and build self-confidence.

The Women’s Group participant Wafa and her daughter, Core student Aya both enjoy their time in the sunshine after their classes at TYO.

The Women’s Group participant Wafa and her daughter, Core student Aya both enjoy their time in the sunshine after their classes at TYO.

Welcome Wafa! Please tell us about your family and the different programs they are in at TYO.

I am originally from the Al Ein refugee camp in Nablus. I stopped attending school when I was fourteen years old in the eighth grade, which is why I decided to join the TYO’s Women’s Empowerment Program to participate in English and fitness classes. After I got married, I moved in with my husband at Balata refugee camp in Nablus. We have five children together, two boys, Mohamed who is twenty-one, Ahmed who is nineteen, and three girls, Baraah who is twenty-three, Reem who is thirteen, and Aya who is five. Aya is in the Morning Core Child Program and Reem is in the Academic Support Services Program. Reem is in the seventh grade at school and in her second session at TYO.

Why did you decide to enroll your child in the academic tutoring program?

Reem became extremely jealous when Aya was born because she was no longer the youngest child and needed to share my attention with her new sister. I truly believe this had a significant impact on her personality. Reem was suddenly very verbally and physically aggressive, and this started to affect her grades and behavior at school. She had no boundaries and would fight with her siblings, as well as her peers and teachers at school. First, I enrolled Aya in the Core Child Program in order for her to receive quality early childhood education outside of the dim conditions of the camp. I knew she was enjoying herself at TYO, so I asked if they offered any support services for older children. At this time, they were just starting to offer the Academic Support Services to children from the camps, so I decided to give it a try for Reem.

Student Reem smiles before her class with the Academic Support Program.

Student Reem smiles before her class with the Academic Support Program.

Have you noticed any major changes in Reem and Aya’s behavior since they started attending TYO?

For as long as I can remember, Reem never wanted to study, but recently that has started to change. She is opening her books and studying on her own without me having to tell her to do her homework. She still has some challenges in math, English, and Arabic, but I think this may have more to do with her feelings towards school, rather than her academic capabilities. Reem had a really hard time adjusting to school and said she hated it and always went late. Since starting at TYO, she wakes up early and arrives to school on time. She is consistently studying for her exams and I am starting to see progress in her grades. Unfortunately, her attitude is still detached. It is easier to see progress in terms of academic improvement, but she still needs special attention towards behavioral development in terms of the skills she needs to better deal with anger, fear, and disappointment.

As for Aya, before she started the Core Child Program she was very shy and did not like speaking. Now she is much more confident speaking and participating in activities. Her teachers at TYO have even noted this development, as she is now much more outgoing and socializes with her peers.

What does Reem talk about at home she talks about academic tutoring at TYO ?

She always gives me a daily update about how the session is going. Reem told me all about the pre-assessment for English yesterday and that today is the Arabic test. She loves the teaching methods that they use in her classes, especially learning through play. Tutoring sessions are not boring and she is really looking forward to this Thursday’s class because it will be a free day for activities. I can tell by her attention to detail and willingness to share all this information with me that she is fully engaged in the program.

Is there a particular memory from last session in which you realized the impact tutoring was having on your child’s life? 

Reem constantly emphasizes how much she appreciates the general atmosphere of TYO. The volunteers are very nice and respectful. She especially likes how she does not have to wear a uniform like at school. Every night she carefully picks out her favorite outfits for the next day and she pays attention to every little detail. If there is one button missing from a dress, she will make me sew it before she wears it to TYO. Also, in the camps there are no places to go. It is school to home, home to school. TYO is an exciting addition to her daily routine.

Are there other centers in Nablus offering academic support like TYO? What do you find unique about us?

There is a local NGO in the camp where she can go for academic support, but I chose not to send her there because it does not give her the opportunity to leave Balata and meet friends from other places in Nablus. The nightly raids and arrests in Balata camp have created a high-stress environment in which there is a circle of violence and aggression among children and youth. I chose to send her to TYO because she needs to be in an environment completely removed from the camp where there is love, respect, compassion, and most importantly, no violence.

What has been the impact of TYO's programs on your family as a whole?

Reem has certainly improved her time management skills and makes sure to arrive on time to the bus because she enjoys going to TYO. This means that the yelling, tension, and anxiety about getting ready for school have decreased and our morning routine runs much smoother. Reem is becoming more independent, and Aya is much more confident. Our daily activity of attending TYO together teaches us all about responsibility, commitment, and organization.

Reem is a participant in the After-School Academic Support Program sponsored by Relief International.

Aya is a student in the Core Early Childhood program which is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Wafa is a participant in The Women's Empowerment program. 

Interview conducted by Marina, Fall 2016 Teaching and M&E Fellow, and translated by Futoon, TYO Outreach Coordinator.