Community-Based Reading Programs for Syrian Refugee Children

July 19, 2016

In June 2016, three Harvard graduate students, Anina Hewey, Farida El-Gueretly and Sonya Temko (HGSE International Education Policy 2016), received funding from the Middle East Initiative to travel to Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan to conduct a process evaluation of the pilot TIGER program. TIGER (These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading) is a community-based, non-formal education initiative for adolescent Syrian girls in Za'atari funded through the UNHCR Innovation fund, implemented by International Relief and Development (IRD) and designed and supported by Open Learning Exchange. Read more about the students' experience and findings:

The TIGER program aims to keep girls in school once they reach the at-risk age of adolescence and re-enroll out-of-school girls into formal schooling. The program also seeks to enhance girls’ sense of agency, meaning and connection in their lives. To achieve these goals, the program is comprised of three essential parts: academic support, project-based learning, and a personalized learning system on tablets. Across six districts of Za’atari, 120 TIGER girls meet daily in teams of about ten guided by a co-teaching pair of Syrian women.

The purpose of our trip was to see how well these goals are being achieved and what more can be done to strengthen the program. Through our interviews with coaches, focus group discussions with TIGER girls, and observations of each of the TIGER teams, we found the program to be successful in increasing girls’ motivation to go to and stay in school. The combination of direct academic support, community service projects, and strong trusting relationships between the coaches, the girls and their families has made the TIGER girls a “network of girl change makers” within the camp. Many girls reported feeling increased confidence at school and have developed new skills in collaborative problem solving.

The projects the girls have done as part of the TIGER program demonstrate their creativity and power. The first round of projects centered on the theme of recycling. Teams did projects varying from creating decorations out of recycled materials, creating and performing a play about recycling, to conducting interviews in the camp about how the community recycles. The current project cycle is focused on the theme of education and teams are doing projects including peer-learning with non-TIGER girls, publishing an article about social issues in the community magazine, creating their own magazine on the importance of education, organizing a “girl pool” to have all girls walk safely together to and from school, organizing a registration drive to re-enroll girls into school, and organizing a girls’ soccer tournament.

Our biggest recommendation for the program is to expand it to reach as many girls as possible in the camp. This should be done through systematic training that leverages the knowledge and experience of the current coaches to train oncoming coaches in project-based learning. Because of the impact that the peer-learning project has had on TIGER and non-TIGER girls, this model should be expanded to all TIGER teams and could be considered as a route for expansion of the program at-large.

The biggest change the girls would like to see in the program is to go on a field trip. The majority of TIGER Girls have been in the camp for years, some up to five, without ever leaving since their arrival from Syria. We are currently working to meet the girls’ request for a field trip where they could spend the day exploring Jordan outside the walls of the camp and present their TIGER projects to an outside audience. To help the girls achieve this dream please consider donating to the TIGER fieldtrip campaign here.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Community-Based Reading Programs for Syrian Refugee Children.” News, , July 19, 2016.