By Milia Jebran and Mona Mkahal*
Beirut, August 2012
Rania Abou Jawdeh teaches a group of 9 students living with disabilities. Her class consists of 9 to 13 year old children with various learning and mental disabilities. She described the environment of her classroom as “depressing and lacking motivation”.
The school is one of the centers for a local non-governmental organization, AFEL (Association du Foyer de l’Enfant Libanais). It provides services to children who are suffering of social problems in addition to disabilities. These come from a “socially disturbed background” where the school provides education, protection, and psychosocial intervention.
“It was too difficult for me to deal with the group in my class,” Rania said. She explained that, “The children always looked sad and upset as a result of their social cases. They behaved carelessly with total absence of self-esteem. They did not show the least interest in school or attending the classes.”
When AFEL cooperated with Right To Play in 2011, Rania participated in the training workshop. She reflected high regard and value to Right To Play methodology and style. That motivated her to regularly implement the program on her children. She planned special sessions from the Red Ball Child Play module, focusing on building up self-esteem and confidence. In the beginning, she focused on helping the children gain respect of the self and to others; she led them through the play-based sessions to believe in themselves and their abilities, defying their social hardships and problems. Simultaneously, she gained their trust! “I’m proud to tell you that my students express how grateful they are. They’ve learned to accept what they are, and appreciate what they have,” Rania goes on to say, “Bye bye Depression. It is no longer among my group. My children are ambitious they will succeed in life.”
Working on the improvement of their self-perception and the perception of others, Rania carried out games such as, “Hope-Hope-Joy, Blindfolded Partner Race, Team Trust, and Captain Trust” and the like. This helped them reflect deeply upon themselves, and take others’ feelings into consideration.
The Reflect – Connect - Apply discussion questions used by the teacher helped the children find the positive traits they possess. They identified the good thoughts they have, and made the commitment to improve what needs to become better.
Currently, what can be described as Phase II of Rania’s plan, sessions from the Blue Peace Ball games are being implemented. The focus now is to promote positive communication among others and improve social interaction. Aiming at building up social bonds among the classmates, cohesion is paving its way into the group regardless of their social, mental and physical disabilities.
These sessions brought the teacher and the students together. It improved the classroom atmosphere, changing it into one with less violence and more positive attitude. The life skills they learned through the play sessions taught them to trust the group and protect themselves.
“Before I was introduced to Right To Play programming I never thought of using games in my classroom. I hesitated to use it, and was nervous during the first couple of sessions. Now I am firmly convinced with this new teaching-learning technique. It helped me become closer to my students and improved the overall classroom standard. And most importantly, the learning-through-play concept contributed to achieve what was seen impossible previously,” said Rania, smiling widely with satisfaction.
*Mona Mkahal is a student coming from Canada. She spent an internship mandate in RTP Lebanon.