Ghena Haikal

By Andy Gregory

In her role with the UNICEF Makani Program, Ghena Haikal, Class of 2020, has helped deliver thousands of educational tablets to vulnerable children in Jordan, including Syrian and Palestinian refugees. For most people, a tablet is just another digital device but to these young children, it brings hope of a better future.

NYUAD: How are you helping improve access to education?

Haikal: Since I joined Makani a year ago, we’ve distributed more than 10,000 educational tablets to dozens of vulnerable communities in Jordan, including many refugee camps. Another 11,500 devices are set to be delivered this year.

NYUAD: How does it feel to be part of something that’s changing lives?

A simple tablet with math and Arabic learning content opens up a whole new world for kids who want to learn but lack access. The joy I see in their eyes is amazing. I’ve always wanted to help my community, even if it’s just one percent of the change.

NYUAD: One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to promote quality education and lifelong learning. How is your work connected to that goal?

Makani, which means ‘my space’ in Arabic, helps children in vulnerable communities get equitable access to learning. For some, the Makani Program is complementary to their public school education but for others, especially refugees, it’s all they have.

Ghena Haikal, Class of 2020

Major: Social Research and Public Policy

Current Role: Program Associate, UNICEF Social Protection, Makani Program

Current Location, Amman, Jordan

Home Country: Jordan

NYUAD: How did NYUAD help develop your skills and interest?

I conduct focus groups with refugee children and their parents to understand the issues they’re facing and evaluate the effectiveness of the program. I developed my research skills at NYUAD: almost every course had a research paper, surveys, and group interviews.

NYUAD also taught me how to be part of an international community. In my field visits we work with Jordanians, Syrians, Pakistanis, and local tribes, so you have to be understanding of different cultures. As NYUAD students, when we apply all we learned to the real world, you can see how much change is possible.