When lockdown closed classrooms across Lebanon, teachers who had been trained in digital technology were ready to deliver learning to their students at home.
When the Covid-19 pandemic shut down classrooms in Lebanon, two schools were better placed than most to move quickly to online learning.
For three years - with support from Theirworld - DOT (Digital Opportunity Trust) Lebanon had been training teachers at Mtein and Taalabaya public schools on how to use digital technology and to prepare their own e-content for hundreds of students, who are a mix of Lebanese and Syrian refugees.
“When the pandemic closed the schools in March, we had to move very fast,” said Carine Sobhieh, facilitator of the tech hub at Mtein school in Mount Lebanon. “We had one week to work out how we could continue the school year.”
All the experience they had gained through the Theirworld project meant they could adapt rapidly. Within days, DOT set up training and workshops for teachers, showing them how to deliver lessons remotely to students in their homes. They also made sure that advice on how to stay safe during the pandemic was included.
Carine added: “We were one of the few schools in Lebanon to not panic when the schools were shifted to online. Our teachers and students are familiar with the technology.”
But soon it became clear that some students had little or no access to electronic devices. So Theirworld approved additional Covid-19 support, providing tablets to students in the crucial grades 8 and 9 for ages 14 to 16. Teachers designed and developed specific content for their online learning.
“We asked parents of students to commit to the online sessions,” said DOT Area Manager Mariam Haidar. “We invited the parents to the schools and informed them about the programme. Then we did training for the parents and teachers on how to use the tablets.
“The experience was very successful and the feedback and commitment from the students and parents was really impressive.”
Theirworld's project filled the gap in the role of schools due to the Covid-19 outbreak. It contributed at an educational and social level for teachers and students. It helped students to depend on themselves to prepare and answer assignments.
One mother, Maria Shmoury, said: “This project made us feel as if our daughter was in school, due to the programmes set and the big commitment and seriousness among school management, teachers and students. It was a good alternative."
Student Suzan Mohammad agreed. She said: “During the distance learning I have benefited a lot from having a tablet and using Zoom. That helps us to have contact with the teachers and this helps me a lot to understand lessons."
Schools in Lebanon finally started to reopen last week after being closed for months by the pandemic. Teachers and parents at Mtein and Taalabaya said they were happy to see classes resume. Students will be split into two groups and will spend 80% of their time at school and 20% learning online at home.
Theirworld has been working in the region since 2015. We launched a snack programme at Mtein school as an incentive for children to attend and to help them concentrate in class. In 2016, Theirworld began working with the DOT tech hub programme to improve technological skills for Lebanese and Syrian students, including the training of teachers.
“Theirworld's project was an answer to our prayers because before this we only had an overhead projector and a few laptops,” explained Carine. “That powered our imagination about how we would like the Mtein school to be.
"We now have the equipment and the technology, which was very beneficial for our students and teachers.”