By Annie Mueller, Communications Officer
PHOTO: CECLE students waiting for the ceremony to begin.
On June 17, 2012, 250 students arrived at the Al-Hussein Cultural Center, in Amman. Many of them traveled from different parts of Jordan to attend their graduation. They put on graduation sashes at the door, adjusting them as they filed into the large auditorium alongside 75 school facilitators. Like any graduating class, there is a feeling of excitement among the students, but it is also a bittersweet time.
These students have all been given a second chance at directing their lives after they dropped out of school due to circumstances beyond their control: violence and abuse from teachers, lack of formal records, or family financial situations requiring them to find a job are among the main reasons. And once out of the formal education system for three years, students are not allowed to re-enroll and must consider other non-formal alternatives. Often times, their only alternative is working a job where they may find themselves mistreated, underpaid, and logging in extremely long hours.
Funded by the US Department of Labor, CHF’s Combating Exploitive Child Labor through Education (CECLE) program has worked with Jordan’s Ministries of Labor, Education and Social Development to help raise awareness and create a National Framework for handling the issues of the worst type of exploitive child labor in Jordan, giving young drop-outs more promising choices for their future. The growth and graduation of this segment of the youth population indicates that the Jordanian attitude toward exploitive child labor is changing. Not long ago, the issue was not was not even recognized by many education officials themselves.
PHOTO: Student speaker Huda Mohammad
Huda Mohammad, one of CECLE’s outstanding female students, gave a confident speech during the ceremony. Huda is an 18-year-old from Iraq who had to drop out of school when she moved to Jordan, in 2004. Important documents which would have allowed her to enroll in Jordan’s education system were left behind in her native country, leaving her few other options aside from small domestic tasks. Two years ago, she enrolled in the CECLE program and has worked hard through her three cycles of classes. Now, she has her 10th grade education equivalent and with a ticket arranged by the United Nations, Huda will be going to New York. She says she is thinking about studying medicine, or majoring in sports and athletics management. Huda was chosen to speak at the ceremony due to her dedication throughout the years to the program, where she feels like she is “one of the team.”
The graduation ceremony honored those students who have completed at least one of the three eight-month cycles of classes through the CECLE program. Those completing the third cycle, like Huda, will be given the equivalent of 10th grade certification. CECLE and the Jordan Ministries of Labor, Education and Social Development worked to provide this alternative certificate program, which, after completion, gives students a choice of how to pursue their goals. The choices include finishing high school through homeschooling; vocational training in professions, such as air conditioning repair, auto repair, and welding; or being able to re-enroll at the 9th grade level, for those who wish to attend formal schools again.
Joining the graduation ceremony were CHF President & CEO David Weiss, CHF Board Member Governor Richard Celeste, and Deputy to the Jordan Minister of Education, Sattam Al-Awwad , who all participated in handing out certificates to both the facilitators and the graduating students.
Additional parts of the graduation ceremony included speeches by Waleed Al Tarawneh, director of the CHF CECLE program, Sattam Al-Awwad, Deputy to the Minister of Education, a slide show depicting photos of children affected by the worst forms of child labor, a play about child labor performed by a Jordanian human rights theatre troupe, and a young beatbox performer.
Though the graduation also marks the end of the CECLE program, the educational framework and centers will continue to be run by the Ministries as a lasting effect of their collaboration together.
Please view photos from the CECLE program and graduation ceremony here.