One of the most prominent refugee diasporas would be that of Syrian refugees. Since the Syrian Civil War of 2011, Syrians have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries for asylum. Millions of them flee to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, among other countries within the Middle East. However, them leaving their home country for the sake of their lives has come with its own consequences. For young children, especially, their education paths are cut short. In fact, in Syrian refugee camps, more than 40% of children are not enrolled in school according to KidsRIght. For one, in Lebanon, which houses almost a million Syrian refugees, more than half of the children in refugee camps do not have an education, not even at primary levels. Even though in the primary school sector, Syrian refugee enrolment is comparable to refugee primary school enrolment worldwide, we think the percentages are too high. These young children will have their futures compromised without an education (a basic human right) as education would help provide them with skills and knowledge to escape the poverty cycle. These refugees need to completely rebuild their lives again and ensuring young refugees receive a quality primary school education is a key first step towards this.
The low enrolment rates result from many challenges which demands our support, should we want primary school education to succeed in refugee camps. The Patatas will thus, help consolidate the main reasons for this and offer you a solution which utilises technology effectively for the support of Syrian refugee primary school education.
Challenges that Refugees Face
Syrian refugee camps are likely to be wired up to local electrical grids to obtain electricity, but given the distance to camps which are in city outskirts, the operation is expensive and electricity is unstable. Many refugees are bound to be used to frequent power cuts. Today, many alternatives have been raised such as personal diesel generators and solar panels. Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon have been experiencing the positive effects of such alternatives which have been as great successes. The largest Syrian refugee camp, Za’tari in Jordan has even been praised for its use of solar power. However, we would like to note that these solutions are considered inefficient and costly, as well as unstable due to changing weather conditions respectively. Even with their positive steps towards providing electricity in the first place, Syrian refugees continue to experience unstable electricity.
Despite this, the provision of electricity is still seen as less urgent than other necessities like food or water and thus, refugee education has been affected greatly by this prioritisation. Having access to stable electricity is critical for education. One key reason is lighting, without which, refugee students may not be able to concentrate should classes only rely on sunlight, or not even complete their studies if they cannot catch up with the curriculum or homework at night. Camps in Jordan like Azraq and Za’atari have reported that having stable lighting will indeed allow students to study better for longer hours, without strain to their eyes even after dark. But seeing as obtaining stable electricity supplies is extremely difficult, primary school education in these camps require more support to help young children finish at least a basic education curriculum even without electricity.
Another key problem faced by Syrian refugees is that even though many families own a phone, they are unable to connect to the Internet to use it to its maximum potential. Stable Internet is also difficult to achieve in these camps given the cost of setting up infrastructure to accommodate it. Unfortunately, this is seen as a huge set back in the eyes of Syrian refugees, some having commented that they count Wi-Fi as a basic necessity.
For Syrian refugees in primary schools specifically, there has been a longstanding hope that Information and communications technology (ICT) resources be used in classes. The Internet thus, is seen as not just important in daily life but as an important, relevant educational tool which can help refugees learn new content and media literacy efficiently.
It has also been reported that by bringing education online, it can greatly aid primary school education, especially for children with jobs. For example, in Turkey, 70% of refugee children have no father figure in their household. With single parenting for many children being so widespread, many children have trouble juggling school with financially supporting their family; making online learning, which is always accessible, important for them to play catch up. However, without stable Internet, how can these young refugees experience a modern, technology-based education in the first place, be it in or out of the classroom?
Syrian refugees in primary school, no doubt, find the Internet crucial in their circumstances but seeing as the Internet connection is sporadic, an alternative needs to be found to replace Internet usage’s unstable role in education. The alternative should ensure that learning can be carried out effectively offline in school while remaining modern in approach for all primary school students to learn at once regardless of their household situation.
In recent years, most refugees worldwide do own mobile devices and thus, this problem is perhaps not as serious. For Syrian refugees, generally, more than 90% have mobile devices. Yet, we would still like to point out how crucial phones are to Syrian refugees in education. Interestingly, a study in Jordan found that 65% of the educational use of phones was to help students complete their homework. Syrian refugees even use phones to pick up from where they left off on their education journey back home. No matter their level of schooling, students have been found to work independently, using phones to access online and offline educational resources to educate themselves. Teachers also use phones in class to access supplementary information or to provide comments on students’ homework.
While things look positive here, we cannot forget how these devices need to be frequently charged to work, meaning they need electricity. Furthermore, with so many educational resources used in refugee camps being online, an Internet connection is also required. As such, not only does using mobile devices cause the minority of young Syrian refugees without phones being left out in the modern education process but that it also relies on the aforementioned unstable electricity and Internet. A solution is thus, much needed to support Syrian refugees primary school education; seeing as they are currently very reliant on unstable resources when it comes to education.
So, how can we support Syrian refugees?
Us here at The Patatas have come up with CaseStudy, as a way to support Syrian refugees in all three ways at once. CaseStudy will, therefore, be beneficial as multiple solutions to any challenges faced in refugee camps all packed into one briefcase. For a brief introduction, check out our video here!
CaseStudy’s case is shockproof and waterproof, making it more than able to stand high levels of impact or harsh weather conditions. For example, in Lebanon, many camps experience frequent hurricanes, which causes floods and winter storms. With infrastructure often destroyed or inaccessible after a natural disaster, it is key that we came up with a solution that could accommodate these conditions. As such, we designed a strong case which will be able to last through such natural disasters and keep the educational materials within it safe, allowing education to continue no matter what happens. With fewer disruptions to the curriculum, primary school students will have less problem finishing their basic education.
The briefcase design also ensures that CaseStudy can be easily carried by teachers who need to walk from home to classrooms. This makes their journeys smoother and with all the contents kept neatly in CaseStudy, they can set up for class with reduced logistical issues, making for a more efficient teaching experience. Primary schools will be able to operate with fewer delays, improving the primary school education experience in this small, yet crucial way.
As for its contents, each piece of equipment provided has been tried and tested by our team and our partners.
First off, at the heart of CaseStudy, we have the Raspberry Pi.
Described to be something like a mini computer, it can hold around 8GB worth of contents. The digital contents can be in the form of various files like PowerPoint slides or PDFs, added into the Raspberry Pi by the primary school teachers before class. This gives them the ability to customise their classes by adding files suitable for their teaching style and their students’ learning styles. The Raspberry Pi does not require a constant electricity supply or Internet connection. As it can be charged using a power bank or battery and because it already has files uploaded into it so classroom content is accessible offline, this seemed to us the best way to support Syrian refugees in primary schools.
Secondly, we added in a portable projector and speakers.
Such equipment is needed so that mobile devices are not required to see the files. By simply connecting the projector and speakers to the Raspberry Pi and projecting the audio-visual materials provided, the whole class will be able to view the contents easily. No primary school student will be left out in the learning experience just because they have no personal mobile devices and to us, this is the best-case scenario for these Syrian refugees. Besides, these materials do not require constant power supplies either as they utilise power banks too and do not require Internet connections. Furthermore, projectors work best in dim lighting, utilising what was once a challenge and making it an asset for CaseStudy. They thus, suit Syrian camp conditions to a tee.
Last but not least is simply anything required to use the aforementioned equipment. Wires, power banks, keyboards, remote controls and the like are all packed into CaseStudy. While they serve as accessories, their importance cannot be forgotten. To best support Syrian refugees in primary school to provide them with a modern education despite their conditions, all components play equal part in the learning process.
With that, we think CaseStudy is well-equipped to provide for primary school students in Syrian refugee camps. Even as they may experience many hardships on camp, it is essential that we provide them with, at least, a basic primary school education which prepares them for the modern working world, where every person is armed with technological abilities and knowledge. With CaseStudy’s durability and carefully chosen technological components, we believe Syrian refugees will learn relevant skills and media literacy to keep them competitive when they enter the workforce.
To round up, when we look into the lives of Syrian refugees, we can clearly see how primary school education is greatly hindered by the condition of each camp. Having been forced to live on refugee camps temporarily, primary school students on these camps ought to receive quality education no matter what. Therefore, The Patatas sincerely believes in the ability of CaseStudy to support them, seeing as our solution can meet their needs. This comes with the bonus that CaseStudy’s costs are low due to the equipment we have chosen being of high quality and low cost. Overall, it can accommodate the lacking financial and infrastructural resources of refugee camps in Syria’s neighbouring countries and we are proud of our innovation.
If you would like to check out CaseStudy (including its pocket-sized counterpart) or would like to sponsor future projects like it, do reach out to us via email or Facebook.