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October 17 2021 5:42 AM ˚

Jordanian NGO teaches importance of early childhood development

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Hani (right) and Fares Akasheh, the founders of Neurogarden are pictured in this undated photo. The two hope to spread awareness on the importance of early childhood education in Jordan. (Photo: Handout from Neurogarden)
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AMMAN — The earliest years of a child’s life are some of the most critical for development, particularly from birth to age three, according to a report by UNICEF.اضافة اعلان

During this time, “we know that in their earliest years, babies’ brains form new connections at an astounding rate — according to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, more than 1 million every single second — a pace never repeated again.”

In 2018, two brothers, Hani and Fares Akasheh, set out to bring awareness on early childhood development to Jordan. So, they founded Neurogarden, an NGO that aims to spread awareness of neuroscience and early brain development to kindergartens, parents, policymakers, and caregivers in Jordan.

Spreading awareness on this issue not only gives those dealing with young children a sense of how their brain is developing, but it can also give caregivers a sense of what to avoid when dealing with children and how seemingly simple situations or actions can have long-term effects on a child’s life.

“We took a look at the research papers done about kindergarten teachers in Jordan; most of it shows that kindergarten teachers lack the education and training to deal with children. Most of these papers conclude with saying that early year teachers need to have the proper training,” Hani, cofounder of Neurogarden told Jordan News.

According to a 2015 National Early Childhood Development survey conducted by the Queen Raina Foundation (QRF), 50 percent of the sampled nurseries were Ministry of Education based, 39 percent were privately owned, and 7 percent were owned by CBOs (community-based organizations).

The report added that nearly one-third of the ministry and CBO-based caregivers have not completed their Tawjihi (general secondary education certificate examination) and less than one quarter have received their bachelor’s degree.

“Given that children develop really rapidly in this period of their life, it was like common sense to train the people dealing with children who are in their most sensitive period.” Hani said.

Getting to the root of trauma

According to another UNICEF report, “Although corporal punishment is illegal in schools, alternative care settings, and penal institutions, the use of violence in these settings — and in homes — continues to be widely accepted socially and culturally. Nine out of 10 children experience violent discipline (psychological and/or physical).”

Neuroscience hopes spreading awareness on early development can play a part in combating the numbers found in the UNICEF report.

All children develop and grow at their own pace; however, in the early stages of life they are susceptible to their surrounding more than when they are older.

Trauma directly affects children in that age range, whether it be in the form of verbal, physical, neglect, or abuse they all have direct consequence on the child. Based on the 2015 QRF report, “Physical discipline has many negative ramifications on children’s brain development, academic performance, and ultimately, future well-being. Other consequences include harming the parent-child relationship and having children endorse hitting as a mechanism to solve their problems (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2009).”

“The mothers’ survey showed that while 75 percent of Jordanian mothers did not agree that physical discipline was necessary in order to raise or educate the child properly, many of them reported their children were physically disciplined at home.”

The report went on to list a couple of universities, studies, and organizations that have tried to raise awareness on neuroscience before, to give caregivers and policymakers access to research on early childhood education.

Results from those efforts found that raising awareness could change caregivers’ belief systems in the long run, giving them a more conscience mindset, according to the report.

"Many of this research is done out of Jordan, but we strive to do that here in Jordan in Arabic. Based on the fact science is appreciated or respected, we thought we would use that to educate people.” Hani said. Neurogarden brings numerous objects to their presentations to science excisable, fun, and engaging for parents, caregivers, and policymakers.

Due to the coronavirus, schools have been online and teachers have not had their students in their classrooms. However, Neurogarden hopes to soon release their own online platform with 20 of the top people in the field of child development and neuroscience to train the caregivers, policymakers, parents, and kindergarten teachers in the Kingdom. 

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