Education is my shield, my sword and my olive branch. -- Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan
As an educator and adventurer, travel is essential to my being. I've learned so many things through my years of globetrotting. My experiences fuel my lessons with my students as they learn about cultural diversity and the world around us. During my travels, I make every effort to visit schools and get a glimpse of how educational systems are set up in other parts of the world. Conversations with teachers across the globe provide a better understanding of the differences and commonalities we share as educators. Regardless of the country I'm visiting, one topic always makes its way into the conversation: quality education for our children.
Every teacher in every corner of the globe wants quality education for their students, but the fact is, not all children receive it. All around the world economic, ethnic, racial, and social disparities still plague schools. Lower income schools can't compete with the resources available in rich schools and as a result, student success suffers. Teacher pay and retention is an additional problem. Not only does it have a detrimental effect on student progress, it's demoralizing for the teacher. Whether here in the United States or in foreign countries, where there's money, there's opportunity and involvement. If there's no money, both students and school become another statistic.
Despite all this, there are people, schools, and communities making a difference every day. They're fighting the good fight surpassing challenges and creating safe learning environments for their children. I'd like to share with you one such place.
A few years ago, I won a trip to Jordan as part of a world-wide Twitter contest sponsored by The Jordan Tourism Board and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah. I saw many beautiful things and met many wonderful people, but one of the things that stood out to me most was my visit to an All-Girls school called, Safut. I've been a long time follower of Her Majesty and her work around global issues. As Honorary Global Chair of the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative, Queen Rania believes that education is a social and moral responsibility. As an educator, I couldn't agree more. So you can imagine my delight when I got word that I'd be visiting this school!
Safut, located in the capital of Amman, is part of the Madrasati Education Initiative. Madrasati means "My School" in Arabic. It was launched in 2008 by Her Majesty with the aim of improving lower income schools and educational experiences of students across Jordan. Starting with the upgrade of the physical structure of a school, an educational program follows -- each one tailored around the needs of a specific school and community. This is a massive joint effort as businesses, non-governmental organizations, communities, and the Ministry of Education all come together to support schools in need.
During my time at Safut, I witnessed some of the same problems experienced here in the states. Teachers lacked basic resources, they were weary, and spent lots of time before and after school in preparation for the days ahead or helping students with homework. Some of the girls were runaways, petty thieves, and victims of abuse. Already "at-risk" they were considered on the fringe of society. Safut was their second chance for a better life, yet as a lower income school, Safut needed help.
This is where an extraordinary leader was needed and Maha Safour, the school's Principal, was just that person. Maha would say she's just an ordinary person but what makes her extraordinary to me, is her big heart and tenacious spirit. She's not one to wait for something to happen, she makes it happen. Maha is energetic, positive, and she gets in the trenches alongside the teachers. She's activated the community and all contribute to the learning and social well-being of these girls. Dynamic people build inspiring communities -- that's what the Madrasati Initiative is all about.
Need art materials? Teachers visit the trash dumps and scour the neighborhood for donations.
Girls want to learn how to sew? Parents teach the girls to sew using all kinds of fabrics and materials.
Have a novice teacher learning the ropes? Give her a mentor to guide her through her first year.
Safut is one large family helping one another because they understand that education is an investment that's in the best interest for the entire community. The smiles on the girls faces and the high level learning that was happening was proof of an engaging and supportive educational environment.
As Queen Rania eloquently states, "Madrasati: my responsibility... my community... my future."
Wonderment, curiosity, and eagerness to learn is an innate part of our human existence that's somehow become a political debate revolving around rights and privileges. We must take example from Safut and activate ourselves and others to invest in the children who will one day become global citizens of our world. If we don't take responsibility in the mental and emotional upbringing of our children, we set ourselves up for a dreary existence. Having a well educated global culture is stabilizing, equalizing, and cost-normalizing. Lack of interest and support will decrease social mobility, progress, and increase crime, depression, and desperation. Is this the world we want to live in?
I have fond memories of Jordan and I will never forget my time spent with these girls. I leave you with this short video of Safut. Every time I watch it, I'm inspired to be a better teacher. I hope you're inspired too. Enjoy.
Al-Mughamara! -- Carla