News and Updates
Friday, 06 January 2017

Education for Everyone

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Looking out onto a lemon orchard is the south-facing window of the Saida Vocational Training Centre. The view of the golden fruits and the smell of citrus wafting on the air transported me back to holidays on the island of Cyprus, just 155 miles away from here.

On the other side of the orchard was a less familiar sight. Ein El-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp, housing over 120,000 people in just one square mile, is notorious for its ongoing political violence, high rates of unemployment and its poor living conditions. 40% of the students attending the centre were from this camp.

Muslim hands support the South Saida Vocational Training Centre which was established in 2003 to address the alarmingly high number of male students dropping out of school in the local area. It began with afternoon teaching before it became a full time VTC educating over 280 boys between the ages of 14 and 20. The centre offers courses such as accountancy, mechanics, computer maintenance and IT systems, literacy, electronics, heating and cooling systems
Through these courses, students can acquire the qualifications and experience to go into further study or to find a decent job where they can earn a good, sustainable income. Muslim Hands sponsor 18-year-old mechanic students Hasan and Ahmed. They both want to go to university to study mechanics once they leave. 17-year-old Muhammad also sponsored by MH, is receiving top grades in his electronics class and would like to become an electrical engineer and run his own business
However, the centre doesn’t only offer these young men educational support. A lot of boys who drop out of school face issues of low self-esteem according to the Head of the Department for Character Development. He says, ‘it’s very important to address these problems. That’s why we give lessons on ethics and behaviour, have a programme of social activities as well as supervisors who are there to provide emotional support and build up the student’s confidence’

Mahmoud Afsar was only 16 when he came to the centre, after his teacher told him he would fail in school. Now aged 24, he teaches Mechanics here and is passionate about giving others like him the opportunity to excel. Laughing, he tells us that even some of his previous school teachers have been shocked by his success!
Seeing the various classrooms and workshops, you can truly understand why the centre is going from strength to strength. The resources are top-class, (the mechanics workshop, for example is number one in Lebanon) and the staff are well educated (head of computers worked on systems for the UN for twenty years)
However, its real success is that it really feels like one big family. The atmosphere is welcoming and informal, students seem genuinely enthusiastic about what they are learning and the teachers are just as passionate. It all goes to show that with the right nurture and care, every child can achieve their potential.

Muslim Hands supports a variety of education projects across the world including vocational training centres, purpose-built schools for orphans and educational facilities in emergency locations.

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Muslim Hands ZA

Established in 1996, Muslim Hands SA NPC is an aid agency and NGO aiming to help those affected by natural disasters, conflict and poverty. It is a branch of Muslim Hands UK established in 1993 in Nottingham.