Friday, February 27, 2009

Community Mobilization for Partnership in Schools

I can’t believe I haven’t updated this in a month! Time is flying by at amazing speed.

Paul and I have been living in our new apartment for since the beginning of February. Our new place is very nice and very spacious, but completely unfurnished, meaning we have to install everything – i.e. fridge, oven, washer, shower curtain rods, toilet paper holder, etc. We are still waiting for our furniture to arrive so for the past 3 weeks we’ve been sleeping on the floor. We did buy a kitchen table a couple weeks ago so at least we have a place to sit in the house!

This past month I have managed to get out of the office and visit some of our programs. I’ve been involved with our programs here for over a year now and have visited them a number of times, but these were my first visits as DCD here in Jordan and many of the programs have progressed and some really interesting and successful activities are taking place. Here is an update and pictures from one of my programs.

The Community Mobilization for Partnership in Schools (CMP) Program is a USAID funded program supporting IRD in working with parents and communities to encourage their involvement in their children’s learning and enhancing the community participation in school improvement efforts and are strengthening the community/school support connections that facilitate life-long learning opportunities and extra-curricular programs within schools.

We were expecting a visit to our schools from the USAID Mission Director this month, which has ended up being postponed due to a reshuffling of the Cabinet here in Jordan. But, in preparing for that visit, Samah, our Program Manager, and I traveled to southern Jordan to visit the schools and do a practice run of the events with the USAID Deputy Mission Director, Director of the Social Services Unit, and our Contracts officer from our program.

Schools in Jordan are overcrowded and don’t have the best support from the Ministry of Education, but aesthetically they do not seem that bad. The school structures have their issues, but overall they are pretty nice and clean. All four schools we visited had very nice computer labs being used for student as well as adult computer literacy courses (part of the CMP promotion of increasing community, particularly mothers, involvement in the schools), good science labs (with granite countertops for the lab benches!), and every classroom had desks and chairs for the students. It’s very hard for me not to compare these schools with those I’ve worked with in Uganda, Indonesia, Nepal and elsewhere, where Jordanian schools knock those schools out of the water.

I can’t speak for the quality of the education or the skills or interest of the teachers though. One thing that is obvious is that there has not been much community involvement in the schools and it is this that our program is trying to improve - with success! We met members of the Community Parent School Committees (CPSCs) that have been set up by our program. These Committees, with representatives from the school administration, student body, local community leadership, parents, religious leaders and even representatives of the communities’ private sector, have really grasped this notion of community and parent involvement in the schools. We have many success stories of the communities implementing literacy activities in the schools, mothers volunteer their time in the kindergartens, community members help create school gardens and volunteer their time to teach the students skills such as handcrafting. In one community we have even seen the community create a scholarship fund for impoverished families to help allow their children to attend school. It is very nice to see one of our programs doing such good work!

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