Jordan transforms education challenges into opportunities during COVID-19 crisis
Each evening at 18H, sirens echo throughout Jordan, announcing the curfew, which lasts until 10H each morning. The kingdom has been under lockdown since March 21st, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
As of May 3rd, 459 cumulative cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Jordan. While Jordan’s case load may seem modest in comparison to the over 3 million cases confirmed globally, the country is not taking any chances and thus far appears to be containing the spread of the disease. A country-wide closure of kindergartens, schools, universities and all educational institutions has been in place since March 15th, 2020 affecting 2,372,736 learners.
The Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) sector has been seeking to ensure the continuity of education during this crisis as not all Higher Education Institutions are able to provide online alternatives for students. Availability of online practical training, which lies at the core of TVET, has been a challenge for students. TVET has enabled the provision of learning opportunities to those most at risk in Jordan, including adolescent girls, refugees and vulnerable Jordanian youth. The immediate impact of COVID-19 must be monitored closely, targeting in particular TVET drop-outs and finding innovative ways to address this challenge.
Recently, Aseel Sheikh Ahmad, 22, completed her Hotel Management programme with a scholarship offered under the UNESCO “Provision of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for vulnerable Jordanian and Syrian Refugee Youth” project, implemented with generous funding and strong partnership from the Government of the Republic of Korea. Following her completion of the practical on-the-job training portion of the programme, Luminus hired Aseel as a Barista.
“While I wait for this challenging time to pass, I am at home watching tutorials about new recipes and how to create new barista drinks. I am in constant contact with my colleagues, checking up on each other to make sure we are all coping”, shared Aseel.
Chaza Aladawi also concluded her TVET scholarship and studies prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, and had begun working as a chef at a local restaurant. Originally from Syria, Chaza came to Jordan with her family in 2002 and settled in Amman.
“At first, I had a hard time sitting at home, and worried that the restaurant might fire me or cut off my salary. I miss cooking for people a lot, and the escapism it offers me”, said Chaza. “After a while, I realized that if we stay at home, we will reduce the danger of getting more people sick. In my time off, I am trying to learn more about cooking Arab cuisine." Chaza is grateful to have had the opportunity to learn such practical skills and thankful to have a job to return to.
UNESCO, together with UNHCR, has been coordinating closely within the Education Sector Working Group in Jordan for weekly updates on TVET and higher education sectors, as well as mapping of existing programmes and possible responses to the impact of COVID-19 on the two sub-sectors. Good practices have emerged during this crisis, which should inform the transformation and rethinking of education in the medium to long term future, transforming challenges into opportunities.
Globally, 91% of the world’s students are now affected by temporary closures of educational institutions – that’s more than 1.5 billion children and young people. During this challenging time, the education system, students, teachers, parents and caregivers have demonstrated remarkable skills to adapt to an unprecedented national and global situation. As an immediate response to school closures and in order to ensure continuity of education and learning, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has activated online learning solutions through both televised lessons and an e-learning platform. During the first 10 days of the crisis, this e-platform was accessed by an estimated 500,000 students online; 800,000 students have also accessed education through the TV programme. In view of addressing the challenge of teachers’ capacities, the MoE has also launched a platform to support them in this new context.
In Jordan, together with sister UN agencies and education partners, UNESCO will also focus its intervention on crisis sensitive planning, looking at both the response and the preparedness, with particular attention in supporting the MoE in aligning their response plan to their national Education Strategic Plan (ESP). While supporting the planning in line with the ESP and focusing on the humanitarian/development nexus, UNESCO is advocating for the safeguarding of learning for all age groups, with emphasis on equity and equality and the support to the most vulnerable children and youth.
UNESCO has long been working to respond to crises around the world and have thus gained solid knowledge and expertise, especially in areas of its mandate and comparative advantage in the context of the lead role in the Education 2030 Agenda. The COVID-19 pandemic affects all levels and forms of education around the globe, and UNESCO, as the custodian of Sustainable Development Goal 4, has the mandate to address different educational dimensions in support of national institutions and building on strong partnerships at global, regional and country levels.