Lebanon: families coping together in the online learning process

21 September 2020

Malak*, 12, a grade four student at Nicolas Kluiters centre in Jbeil, This is her first year with JRS.
Malak*, 12 years old, a grade four student at Nicolas Kluiters centre in Jbeil, This is her first year with JRS.

The sudden shift to online learning due to the spread of COVID-19 has impacted everyone at school from tutors to students to parents. Tutors must successfully convey lessons utilizing mobile phone applications, videos and other technology, often teaching themselves first in order to develop content for online learning; students must now learn through the use of mobile phones instead of the traditional classroom setting, and; parents must facilitate the learning process so that their children get the most out of their daily lessons.

One positive result of the online learning process is parents’ increased engagement in their children’s education. They must create a structured environment at home in order to facilitate their children’s learning, ensure that their children understand their daily lessons and submit daily homework assignments, and encourage their children to engage with the teacher on WhatsApp during class time.

Malak*, age 12, fled to Lebanon from Syria with her family eight years ago. Malak is a fourth grader at a local public school in Jbeil and simultaneously attends JRS’s learning support progamme at the Nicolas Kluiters Centre (NKC) in Jbeil. Designed to provide both language and homework support to students attending public school, the learning support programme offers additional educational programming to help students thrive in school.  Prior to the shift to online learning, Malak attended the learning support programme in the morning and public school in the afternoon.

Despite the transition to online learning, Malak’s experience thus far at NKC has been positive; she quickly adapted to studying on WhatsApp and participates in all her JRS classes, which she attends daily from 8.00 am to 11.00 am, the same time Malak would typically attend classes at NKC.

“Online learning is not complicated for me. The lessons are being explained very well through WhatsApp videos, and if there is something unclear, I can ask about it,” says Malak. Although, she concedes that online learning is not always easy, she sometimes has difficulty asking questions in the WhatsApp group. “I feel embarrassed among my friends in the group. I can ask the tutor in private, but it is preferable to ask the questions in the group so everyone can benefit from the tutor’s answers.” Malak watches the videos shared by her tutors several times in order to fully comprehend the lessons. She solves her homework problems and submits the answers to her tutors receiving the graded assignments the next day.

Malak’s mother, Alaa, has had to adapt to online learning as well. Firstly, she had to equip her home with wifi so that her children could begin online learning. Both Malak and her brother, Ahmad*, also in the fourth grade, have class at the same time, but with only one mobile phone in the household they must take turns using it. “For me, the first two days of online learning were very strange and I was very confused, but after that it became normal and I encouraged my children to stick to the schedule, and send the solved homework on time. Now, I make sure that they both start together to stay on track,” says Alaa.

Before online learning began, Alaa was supporting her children with their homework assignments, but now must also commit to explaining any lessons which her children do not fully understand.  “I really like this experience because I am receiving lots of information and refreshing my memory,” says Alaa. “Communicating with the tutors is easier on WhatsApp. I can reach them at any time to check up on my children’s performance. Before, I had no option but to visit the school and spend time to do this, so it is time saving for me on WhatsApp.”

The tutors used to motivate me in the classroom when they used to congratulate me on my performance saying “Bravo”, and my friends used to encourage me by applauding for me all together. I used to feel so proud of myself in these moments.
Malak, 12 years old

Malak is getting used to online learning but still misses her tutors and her friends at the school. “The tutors used to motivate me in the classroom when they used to congratulate me on my performance, saying “Bravo,” and my friends used to encourage me by applauding for me all together. I used to feel so proud of myself in these moments.”

Malak is making the best of her time during the quarantine by practicing drawing, her favorite hobby. “I draw anything that comes to my mind because it expresses what’s inside me.  I started drawing at age six.” Malak dreams of becoming a pilot in the future and traveling the world.  Online learning has taught her to count on herself and that education can be pursued regardless of the obstacles that we face in life.

*names changed to protect the identity of the individuals