How Technology Can Help Child Refugees
It’s a devastating statistic — 13 million refugee children from the Middle East and North Africa are missing out on an education, according to a paper by UNICEF. Some are living in camps and others in countries where the education system can’t handle the influx of new students.
The average stay in a refugee camp for a child is 17 years, meaning children often complete their entire education in a camp with little contact with the outside world. Constraints on funds, schools and teachers are forcing volunteers and educators to get creative to ensure these refugee children don’t miss out education entirely.
Technology, however, can play a role in solving this complex issue and give children the education they need.
It can be difficult to get books and other course materials to children in refugee camps. Providing access to these resources digitally can make that significantly easier.
The Xavier Project and Eneza Education partnered up to launch a program that provides refugee students with access to a wide array of educational materials on smartphones. Through this program, students can take quizzes and access tutorials. Teachers can also use the platform as a source of information on professional development, allowing them to serve their students better.
Another partnership, this time between the Vodafone Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has introduced the Instant Network Schools program, that uses tablets to teach refugees. They also created the Instant Classroom for refugees without access to electricity or the Internet. The interactive and current lessons have improved test results and attendance in many schools. Through the program, teachers are also trained to use the technology, which is important to ensure students get the most out it.
Through the Xavier and Eneza project, students can talk live with a teacher. In refugee camps, a single teacher is often responsible for a very high number of students. Schools in countries where refugees have resettled sometimes don’t have the necessary staff either. When students have access virtually to a teacher, they can get valuable one-on-one attention.
Non-profit organization Aliim uses smartphones to connect with students. With this program, students can talk with mentors, and Aliim can monitor students’ progress to help them get a quality education.
Educators can also take advantage of radio to teach students remotely. When schools in Sierra-Leone closed due to the outbreak of Ebola in 2014, education didn’t stop thanks to radio broadcasts. The government teamed up with various organizations to broadcast regular education programs, one in the morning for younger kids and one later in the day for older kids.
Especially for refugees who do not have access to digital devices, radio could be extremely valuable. Regular broadcasts, such as the ones used in Sierra Leone, could save refugee children from missing out on education.
Technology can also help to bridge the gap between students and teachers. Sometimes, students and teachers may not speak the same language, either at all or not well enough to explain complicated subjects. This leads to an obvious problem when it comes to education.
Smartphones offer a solution however. Translation apps help teachers to overcome language barriers to connect with students and give them the help they need. Smartphones can be used for translation anywhere and allow teachers to remedy communication issues quickly.
Many of these technologies wouldn’t work without the Internet, so providing free Wi-Fi to refugee camps can help tremendously with children’s education.
Wi-Fi can also be a refugee’s first link to friends and family back at home. Separated from their loved ones with little communication, sometimes for years at a time, the ability to let a parent, friend or sibling know they are safe is an extremely powerful effect of technology.
Many children grow up entirely in a refugee camp, never seeing the outside world. Access to the Internet gives kids a glimpse at a world they otherwise never would have known, and it inspires them to explore their potential.
Preparing Kids for the World
Technology is everywhere in today’s world. To succeed in a career, you often need to know how to use technology effectively. If a refugee were to miss learning how to use technology, they would be very behind once they join the workforce. Learning to use technology is an important part of a modern education for kids in refugee camps and schools outside of camps.
A Chance to Provide Hope
The unfortunate reality is 51% of the world’s displaced people are under the age of 18. Many refugee children spend their whole childhoods in camps. These children have experienced incredible difficulties and face the threat of missing out on an education once they arrive at a camp or new city. Without technology, they may miss out on education entirely.
The number of refugee children in need of education is huge, and it requires innovative solutions. Using the technology available to us today is a start to providing more of those children with better educations and a better future.