The panel discussions focused on bridging the gap of unequal access to education for refugee children and youth in refugee camps and displaced communities through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
The moderator, Ms Nikita Feiz (Founder, Asylrättstudenterna) shared her passion for educating refugee communities because her parents went to Sweden as refugees from Iraq. She noted that in 2015, there was a big number of refugee children going to Europe and as a student, she initiated a programme on migration law for students and communities. She noted that some refugees had mobile phones, which at the time was their most important possession.
Mr Dexter Findley (Performance and Project Development Lead, Xavier Project) talked about their current projects in refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya, working with grassroots groups formed by refugees to provide better education and improve livelihoods. Refugees are equipped with skills to use digital tools to impact their communities. He noted that a challenge experienced in the Kakuma refugee camp is that many of the teachers are secondary school graduates who may not have the right skills to teach in primary schools. He referred to NumRem, a mobile phone application/game that provides literacy and numerical skills to children, noting that they saw improvement in performance when children played the game for 30 minutes daily in a period of 2 months. He concluded that communities need to be made project co-owners for sustainability.
Mr Paul O'Keeffe (Post-Doctoral Researcher, InZone) emphasised that online or blended learning is not a replacement for traditional learning, and mentioned that there are many challenges related to working in low-resource environments, like floods which may affect classes. He shared how the University of Geneva students use WhatsApp groups and work with other students in camps who use the Learning Management Systems (LMS) to learn. InZone builds e-learning solutions for urban refugees in Jordan and Kenya. Government buy-in is important in project implementation. He concluded that we cannot solve all educational needs with e-learning.
Speaking about the Syrian context, Ms Hannah Bond (Instructional Design and Development at King’s Online, and Project Lead at PADILEIA Project) mentioned that learning is a mixture of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and blended foundation programmes that are taught over a year. She noted that it is important to think about how people use the Internet as a tool to continue learning. Their platform also focuses on teaching language skills, especially because Syrian refugees in Jordan have to learn another language in addition to Arabic.
Mr Govinda Upadhyay (Founder and CEO, LEDSafari) expressed the need to choose between intrinsic and extrinsic learning, noting that in their case, extrinsic learning worked better for teachers targeted by the project at LEDSafari. The project runs in 40 countries, has 200 partners and 50000 children have benefitted from it. He shared that they use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to determine competencies and generate scorecards to judge students precisely. He also noted that many universities still prefer physical classes, even in developing countries. He concluded that there is a need to empower teachers and online interaction cannot replace physical classes.
Ms Virginie Morel (Executive Director and Founder, Innovative Trauma Relief Access) mentioned that she is pro digital innovation, and shared about 2 pilot projects in Senegal and Cameroon that are run for 12 days each. She noted the need to focus on the implementation and development of people in a safe environment and to keep a child-centred perspective to learning. Her organisation uses Oculus virtual reality systems to stimulate children’s brains to learn, especially those affected by trauma, with an objective of reducing emotional pain and breaking the cycle of intergenerational violence. ’Education is not a service, it is a right!’ she concluded.
When asked about incentives, the panellists agreed about the need to have food, transport, stipends, and motivation to complete, for example, a job or internship. On the question of responsibilities as e-learning providers, the panellists agreed first on understanding each context, then providing a safe environment and quality learning.
By Sarah Kiden