Fouad *, 5, lives in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. He was born with a genetic muscle disease from the waist down that prohibits him from walking or standing up. He has been living in Za’atari camp for seven months, and has been attending Save the Children’s Rainbow Kindergarten for the past five months, on his wheelchair. 

Before receiving his wheelchair, Fouad used to stare at the children playing in the kindergarten from behind the fence and beg his mother to let him join in. As soon as Fouad had his own wheelchair, his mother registered him in the kindergarten. It was Fouad’s first time attending kindergarten. His mother Kefah explained that although Fouad has an outgoing personality, at times his disability lowered his self-confidence. She was worried how Fouad would manage without her at the pre-school and was afraid that the other children would hurt his feelings due to his condition. 

Fouad wakes up at 6 o’clock in the morning, brushing his teeth (which he learned to do at kindergarten), and getting ready ahead of time to go to preschool. He prepares his school bag, colouring books and pencils - all of them given to him at the kindergarten with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office- and is ready to go.

At the kindergarten, Fouad learns about the alphabets, colours, counting, and small verses of the Quran that his mother helps recite with him at home. His mother says: “I can’t describe the state of joy that took over him after his first day at the kindergarten. Every night before he went to sleep he used to ask me if he was going back the following morning. At the kindergarten my son was taught to see himself as gifted rather than disabled, and the other children at the kindergarten accepted him easily and he quickly made many friends. The kindergarten definitely gave him confidence. When I recently asked him to watch his younger brother for a moment, he immediately reassured me that he is old enough to do it because he goes to school now. 

Fouad used to be a little possessive too; he is used to getting his way easily because of his disability so it was a big issue for him to share his belongings and toys with his little brother. At the kindergarten he learned how to cooperate and that is very evident at home, I really didn’t expect it.”

 Fouad says:
 “Because I can’t run, I don’t like to play football so I play in the playground outside. Yesterday we planted lentils outside of our class. When my lentils grow I want to give them to my mum to cook lentil soup for me. My dream is to become a pilot and drive a big airplane. If I drive an airplane now I would want to fly back to Damascus and see my home. A pilot must know how to count, and I can do that now.”

During the time Fouad is in class, his mother joins a number of mothers in parent sessions conducted by Save the Children staff where they learn about parenting and more. She explains that the combination of what she and Fouad were learning separately at the kindergarten, have helped him feel more responsible.

Save the Children now runs three kindergartens in Za’atari camp that provide early childhood education to nearly 1,700 children a week, all between the ages of three and five.

* Name has been changed to protect identity .