MyBestStart gives young refugee and disadvantaged children a love of learning

Syrian refugees Alaa, Mohammed and Mahdi with the tablets they use to access the MyBestStart programme at TDH Jbeil educational centre in Byblos, Lebanon (Theirworld/ Diego Ibarra Sánchez)

Theirworld’s project in Lebanon reached more than 5,000 children, teachers and parents - and a second phase will increase access to quality early years education.

Kindergarten student Alaa Hammoud is earnest and excited when he talks about learning on a digital device.

“I play on the iPad and study with it. I learn letters and words in English, French and Arabic,” says the five-year-old Syrian refugee, who lives in Lebanon.

Alaa features in a Theirworld film about the MyBestStart project, which increases access to quality education for young refugee and vulnerable Lebanese children. Phase 1 reached 5,050 children, teachers and parents and Phase 2 is now underway.

Early childhood education is crucial for the development of all children – but especially for child refugees, as many of them have suffered significant trauma. In Lebanon the effects of an economic crisis and Covid-19 left 400,000 children without access to school or pre-primary education.

MyBestStart, supported by Theirworld, combines interactive video lessons, online instruction and physical learning materials – and can be used in the classroom and at home. Watch our video below about the programme.

The children access online and offline material – including stories and songs – on the Tabshoura learning platform and other platforms such as WhatsApp.

Teacher Ghiwa Khalil said: “Little kids all over the world use technology faster than we do and they have the ability to learn by themselves.”

The MyBestStart project was delivered by partners Ana Aqra Association and Lebanese Alternative Learning, with the support of Alfanar.

Parents – some of whom have very basic literacy skills – used tutorial videos to understand how to encourage their children to learn at home, as well as at their early childhood education centres.

A young girl used hers iPad to learn at the TDH Jbeil educational centre (Theirworld/Diego Ibarra Sánchez)

Phase 2 aims to increase access to quality education for thousands more refugee and vulnerable Lebanese children.

It will also help parents and teachers to better understand how to use digital platforms and online educational tools efficiently.

The Lebanese organisation SKILD – which Theirworld has worked with on other projects – is also helping to expand the lessons to be more relevant to children with learning difficulties.

Amina Kleit, Director of Programs at Ana Aqra Association, said: “Our educational specialists worked tirelessly, creating resources that were digitized and accessible to parents, learners and teachers.

“She continues to check the lessons randomly, even though she already did them many times.”

Syrian refugee who takes care of her five-year-old niece.

“Seeing children practising the lessons, with sparkling eyes and curious minds, showed that the project was surely their best start for a lifelong education journey

“We are looking forward to Phase 2, which will reach a larger audience and will also ensure that children with learning difficulties have access to inclusive support and resources, to improve their learning experience.”

MyBestStart is made possible thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery.