Arab Youth: Missing Educational Foundations For A Productive Life?


Last week, I shared with you alarming results from the Brookings Institution’s Arab World Learning Barometer. Related to those findings on the connection between lack of learning and youth unemployment in the Arab region, is the latest release: Arab Youth: Missing Educational Foundations for a Productive Life?.

Here are some of the main findings from the study:

  • Most governments have so far concentrated on stimulating labor’s demand side but have not been paying attention to the supply side (e.g., ensuring that youth have the skills to compete in the labor market).
  • Despite signifigant investment and better performance in education, young adult women are much less likely to be employed than are men.
  • 40 percent of employers in the formal private sector in the Middle East & North Africa region identify skill shortages as the major constraint to business operation and skills growth.
TYO offers university students supplementary courses to ensure work -force readiness

TYO offers university students supplementary courses to ensure work -force readiness








So what can be done? The report offers 5 questions to start the discussion and we offer TYO’s input:

  1. Research confirms that investing early in children’s lives is one of the most beneficial investments a country can make in its future. At TYO, we offer world class early childhood programs for children starting at age 4. With the new STEP! initiative we aim to scale up our interventions in Palestine.
  2. Learning Outcomes cannot be improved without addressing the shortage of teachers and the quality of teaching. Schools in Palestine face a severe teacher shortage. However, more pressing then the number of teachers is the quality. In universities across the West Bank, outdated forms of pedagogy and rote memorization are still the norm. Through the STEP! program, TYO will partner with Columbia University in New York to provide local teachers creative and child-based curricula and training.
  3. Solutions need to take account challenges in conflict-affected countries. Children in Palestine need more than academic focused learning. Faced with daily trauma and uncertainty, holistic non-formal educational techniques most be integrated into classroom learning. We have seen tremendous success at TYO through our psychosocial non-formal educational approach and urge others to do the same.
  4. Governments cannot improve the quality of education alone. The private sector in the region would be among the greatest beneficiaries of higher learning achievements, given that children and youth are their future pool of employees. With support from the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation, TYO’s new STEP! initiative is engaging the private sector in Palestine to recognize and meet the needs of the market. 
  5. The systemic collection and use of data on learning outcomes is an important first step for any country that seeks to improve students’ performance. Palestine is one of the countries that the report cited as having limited data. We urge countries to ensure that learning outcomes be set and used to improve existing systems. 

-Humaira is the Country Director for TYO-Palestine

This program – as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) – is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.

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Arab World Learning Barometer:Enrollment Rates are Up, Learning Is Down


Recently, the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution released the findings of the highly anticipated Arab World Learning Barometer. The barometer measures the quality of education and learning by examining four areas: getting into school, staying in school, whether students are learning basic skills while in school, and the link between education and youth unemployment.

The results were not positive.









While children are enrolling and finishing primary school in the Arab region at a growing rate, they are not learning. Based on countries where data is available the results are stark:

  • Fifty-six percent of primary students and 48 percent of secondary students are not meeting basic learning levels.
  • The learning crisis affects boys significantly more than girls. The share of boys in school that do not meet basic learning levels is higher than girls in almost every country in the region with available data.
  • On average, rural children do not perform as well as their urban counterparts, and overlapping disparities based on income, gender and geographic location create stark divisions.

As the report states, “The learning crisis and lack of skills acquisition among Arab youth in the region have direct links to the wider unemployment challenges in the Middle East and North Africa.” And at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, we recognized this deficit and have taken concrete action to do our part.

In partnership with the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation, TYO is providing world-class early childhood education programs to the children of Nablus, Palestine while also providing university students and graduates the skills they require – but did not receive in school – to enter the workforce.

We look forward to updating you on our progress throughout the year as we move the barometer toward learning.

-Humaira is the Country Director at TYO-Palestine

This program – as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) – is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.

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Nightmares: Affecting Children in Palestine


As part of my work as TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager, I am often confronted with the challenges in our early childhood program of nightmares. Nightmares tend to peak around the ages of 3-6 years which is also the age when the brain is going through extensive fundamental development.  At this age, children have not yet differentiated between realty and imagination. The child’s brain isn’t completely developed so it is unable to process extreme daily experiences such as beatings, traumas, and even death.  Therefore all these experiences are stored in the child’s unconscious. The brain replays these experiences through dreams, so the child has bad dreams and nightmares.  A nightmare is a reflection of the daily experiences with severe physical symptoms such as sweating, screaming, restlessness, and loss of control. The same dream is repeated over and over again.

Children in Palestine offer suffer from nightmares due to trauma.

Children in Palestine offer suffer from nightmares due to trauma.

Through my experience at TYO, I have found that the first time a child experiences nightmares, the parents are very concerned so they show sympathy and a lot of love and care. However, after continuous episodes of nightmares the parent stops taking these episodes seriously, shows less sympathy towards a child and thinks the child is just looking for attention.

After being invited to a training seminar regarding ‘Methodology and Experience of Trauma Education, Fighting Nightmares and Sleep Problems for Improved Education’ hosted by the Norwegian Refugee Council, we learned about the interventions applied in Gaza. Children in Gaza experienced nightmares 5-7 days a week however after this holistic intervention, the nightmares decreased to 0-2 days a week. If a child is experiencing nightmares 5-7 days a week, his/her cognitive levels are less developed compared to the child without nightmares. The child is deprived of sleep, not engaging socially, and withdrawn from others hence their healthy growth and development is stagnant.

Children who have nightmares often do not ask their parents for help and never have conversations about their dreams and nightmares. This intervention encourages children to ask for help and to take control of their feelings and emotions.

In Palestine, we need to open the lines of communication between parents and children and we must empower children to take control of their emotions so they may grow in to healthy adults.


Suhad is TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager 

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Early-years education can mean better school results later


An article this week in The Economist sheds light to the ever-growing need of early childhood programs – globally.

And the need could not be more evident in Palestine.  While Palestinian education has achieved over 83 percent enrollment for boys and girls in primary schools with attendance rates consistently over 90 percent, children still lack opportunities for early childhood education programs and access to quality education remains elusive (UNICEF May 2011).

TYO offers holistic early childhood programs for disadvantaged children

TYO offers holistic early childhood programs for disadvantaged children

The children TYO serves require extra psychological support and often struggle to excel. In the latter half of the 2010 school session, only 67 and 43 percent of fourth graders passed their Arabic and mathematics exams, respectively (UNICEF May 2011). This presents a unique set of challenges for typically rigid school systems that stress rote learning and are ill equipped to provide additional support outside the classroom.

“90% of the brain develops between the ages of zero to five, yet we spend 90% of our dollars on kids above the age of five,” says Timothy Knowles of the University of Chicago.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are only three kindergartens operated by the Palestinian Authority. Research consistently demonstrates that intellectual disabilities early in life are difficult – if not impossible – to correct and that early childhood programs produces the single highest return on investment compared to any other development program.

It’s time to invest in tomorrow’s youth.

-Humaira is TYO’s Nablus Center Director


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Meet the Youth Leadership Committee!


The Youth Leadership Committee (YLC) was formed through the Youth Action Local Leadership Alliance (YALLA), a nascent TYO project with support from the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).  YLC members will apply their training to support youth-identified community initiatives over the next year.  Meet the youth leaders below:


My name is  Ayah Mufeed Jarra and I study English Literature at An-Najah National University.  I worked with Relief  International’s School on Line as an assistant and I was responsible for youth activities and supporting education initiatives for students who needed extra support in English, Arabic, and Math.  I have volunteered with local organizations in Nablus and I was interested to volunteer with the YLC because it will help develop my skills in communication and leadership.


My name is Waleed Tamimi and I am a Business Administration student at An Najah National University in Nablus. I have been involved and volunteered with local and international youth organizations in Palestine and abroad such as the Palestinian Medical Relief Association, Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights and Tomorrows Youth Organization. My interests include politics, youth activism, and traveling. I believe YALLA will help me in the short and long term, applying what I am studying  at the university and facilitating my contribution in building a new Palestinian youth who seek  freedom and justice.


My name is Jamila Hanani and I am a third-year English Language and Literature student at An-Najah National University. I have been a volunteer at TYO since 2010. I have always liked voluntary work for being a double-win; for our society and community and also for ourselves. YLC is a great chance for me to cooperate with people who have the initiative to work in developing community projects and the opportunity to supervise them.


My name is Ahmad Khatib and I am from Jenin.  I study Psychology at An Najah National University.  I have been a TYO volunteer since 2009 and it has given me the opportunity to develop life skills. I am  happy to have this chance to participate in making a positive change in the community.



My name is Roula Joudeh and I am studying Arabic An-Najah National University.  Since 2009 I have volunteered at TYO in different classes such as health, art and at the homework help drop-in center.  My experience at TYO taught me how to work positively with children, how to plan activities, and developed my professional skills and life skills.  I am participating  with the YLC because I want the chance to help the people of Nablus.


My name is  Massa Al-Ahmad and I live in Jenin. I am studying English Language and Literature at An Najah National University.  I worked as a volunteer with organizations such as PLO, PRCS, and Palestinian Medical Relief Committee. I have also taught kids, between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of YLC.  Besides working with other youth, it will allow me to develop my personal and professional skills.


My name is Mohammed Abulkibash and I am studying English Language and Literature at An Najah National University. My first experience in volunteerism was with the Palestinian Red Crescent society (PRCS) as a volunteer in the Psycho-Social Support program for three years.  After that, I  began volunteering with TYO and currently support TYO programs as a translator.  I am in interested in the YLC because it will give me the opportunity to gain confidence and activate youth in our community.


My name is Loay Khaleel and I am currently earning my MA in Arabic at An Najah National University. My first experience in volunteerism was was with Palestinian Red Crescent society (PRCS) in 2000.  After that, I joined TYO and I am very interested to participate with YLC because it will allow me to learn how to implement a sustainable project.



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Clinton Global Initiative 2011

President Clinton

President Clinton speaking at the 2010 TYO Gala in Washington, DC

The mission of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is to inspire, connect, and empower a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. TYO is proud to have participated in the annual meeting for the past several years and is excited to continue its advocacy of youth and women in the Middle East at this prestigious gathering.

On Monday, Monday, September 19, TYO Board members Huda and Samia Farouki will host a dinner on behalf of TYO in New York to bring together leaders on early childhood education, women’s empowerment, and youth development (view a dynamic presentation about these pressing issues) in the Middle East with special guests Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

On Thursday, September 22, 15 minutes before the Girls and Women Plenary Session: “Engaging Men and Boys” our FWEN Program (a CGI commitment with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women) update video is premiering at CGI. Watch it live at 9.00 AM EST!

Throughout the week, TYO will be tweeting live updates from the conference and related activities. Be sure to follow all the action on our Twitter handle @tomorrowsyouth

Click here to learn more about the 2011 CGI Annual Meeting this week.






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Introducing TYO’s Video Series: Community Impact


TYO engages children (ages 4-8), youth (ages 8-22), and parents in productive, formative, and fulfilling activities.TYO’s approach is guided by three main tenants: Comprehensive Development, Sustainable Impact, and Cultural Diplomacy.  TYO values the deep connections with the community and hope that you will be inspired by the next installment in our video series!


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Introducing TYO’s Video Series


This summer Tomorrow’s Youth Organization welcomed the National Team from  Students of the World to Nablus. Over the course of several weeks, this talented group of university students used new media to capture the work we do and the lives we change. Over the next several days we will be sharing the video’s and hope that you will be moved and motivated by the extraordinary resilience of tomorrows youth in Palestine.

Welcome to Tomorrow’s Youth Organization!

Bonus! Check out this fun stop animation courtesy of some incredible TYO kids!

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Racing the Planet


My brother, Usama, started running on January 18, 2010. Though he has always been fit, he took up running for the sake of a new hobby. He has always pushed the limits of mind and body. It is only natural then that he would not just begin running but then sign up for a 150+ mile week-long race through the Egyptian Sahara. I got an email from him a few weeks before he signed up for the race with a link and his comment, “I think I am going to do this.” My siblings and I were skeptical and concerned about how dangerous such an endeavor could be. We thought he was out of his mind. No one took his email very seriously until  he registered and chose an organization to sponsor – TYO.

He started running 50 miles per week and increased to 80 miles a week this month. He will run 100 miles each of the four weeks before the race in October. He has also started training with a 25-pound backpack. He admits this added strain is slightly miserable, but necessary to prepare to carry his supplies during the race in the desert. Usama wakes up at 5 am to run for 2.5-3 hours on four weekdays and one day on the weekend. He describes this new schedule as follows: “the day becomes short very quickly. Three hours of training in the morning, getting back from work after 7 pm, eating dinner, working a bit, reading, and in bed by 10 or so to wake up bright and early for the same routine the next day.” His social life and and free time have decreased to almost nil, but the sacrifice has been worth it as he approaches this incredible feat.

The benefit of this effort goes beyond Usama’s physical resistance: He has raised almost $16,000 for TYO, just $4,000 short of his goal. Usama’s fundraising, combined with TYO’s $25k in 25 days campaign, is aiming to raise $45,000 for TYO!

My brother is an extremely disciplined person. “Focus, dedication, persistence, endurance and even pain” are all reasons he cites for having joined the race. “I think the benefits have been more cerebral for me, i.e. continuing to be awed at raw human capacity (with me being an average proxy for what any human is presumably capable of), and the sheer determination that we can apply to accomplish some pretty radical things.” And we both agree that there’s no better organization than TYO to represent this inspiring concept of using determination to achieve what many see as impossible.

Usama has been involved in causes related to Palestinian justice, dignity, opportunity and self-determination since the mid-90s.  Over the last decade, he has made contributions to education, healthcare, and increasingly to women’s rights and participation. TYO’s work is a perfect match for Usama’s interests, making it an easy cause for him to promote. He has raised the money for the race entirely through his personal network of friends and family.  He says, “I think a combination of close and trusted relationships, the ‘extremeness’ of the event, and the critical importance of the cause has compelled people to participate and support.”

I am proud to call such a motivated man my brother. Though I worry about his safety, I will be rooting for him as his number one fan. I feel incredibly blessed to have been introduced to TYO by Usama and envision supporting the organization far beyond my summer 2011 internship, now as a current staff member and thereafter as a life-long advocate. I hope one day I am able to make as awe-inspiring a commitment and contribution to TYO as my brother has. Until then, I will do my best in Nablus to work at filling such big shoes.

Maliks for TYO, always!



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