Nazha in corona times: helping vulnerable kids with schoolwork

Covid-19 is affecting us all, but vulnerable families are being hit harder than most. Children who are behind at school because of home schooling during the coronavirus crisis need extra support. Luckily, they’re getting it – from Nazha Rustom and her colleagues at the bank.

ABN AMRO employees are ‘Remote Buddies’

The coronavirus crisis has left schoolchildren in the Netherlands with a lot of lost ground to make up. They haven’t been to school for months and at home some don’t have the peace of mind, support and resources they need to keep up their schoolwork. Those who were worst affected are now getting a sorely needed helping hand.

Nazha (30) and around a hundred of her colleagues at ABN AMRO have signed up as ‘Remote Buddies’, teaming up with ten primary schools in Amsterdam to take a child each under their wing. For the next few months they’ll help their buddy practise reading for half an hour twice a week. The buddies use a webcam because under the coronavirus rules volunteers aren’t allowed to visit the schools in person. 

Closing the learning gap after the lockdown

More than half of the children at the participating schools live in difficult situations. Many come from migrant families, for example as the children of refugees. Language is a very important part of their education. Some haven’t lived in the Netherlands for long and many don’t speak Dutch at home. This can cause a learning gap that slows their development. Because if reading comprehension is difficult for you, it’s also harder to understand the explanation of a maths problem. This creates a knock-on effect – with the risk that children will start to dislike school and may give up altogether.

“All children want to be seen and understood. I hope that reading with my primary school buddy, really listening to her and telling her about my own childhood will help her to believe in herself. I came to the Netherlands as a refugee, like my buddy. School was a struggle for me too at first. So I know how important it is to have a role model. I hope she’ll come to enjoy learning more through our conversations and she’ll start the next school year with more self-confidence.” 

Equal opportunities for children with a language learning gap

As a people development consultant with a focus on diversity and inclusion, a lot of Nazha’s day to day work is about developing talent and ensuring equal opportunities for everyone. When she heard through ABN AMRO Foundation about the plan to help children with a language learning gap, she signed up for the Remote Buddy programme right away.

An extra dimension through personal affinity

“Because of my own experience, I can really relate to the problems disadvantaged children have to deal with. So this project touches me deeply. It makes me proud that the bank has set this project up and given me the opportunity to contribute. Who knows – these children could be the doctors, lawyers, teachers, businesspeople and bankers of tomorrow!”

Children are the future

The Remote Buddy programme was established by ABN AMRO Foundation, the municipality of Amsterdam, the Youth Education Fund and the ‘classrooms foundation’ Stichting Studiezalen. ABN AMRO hopes the programme will help young Dutch people overcome obstacles and broaden their horizons.