Refugee students face a plethora of challenges to their education journey due to the conditions they live in. Given a student’s goal which is to learn new knowledge and skills at school for the sake of their future, it is tragic that refugee students face problems of access to electricity, the Internet and mobile devices which negatively affect their education. To put this into perspective, 3.4 million out of the 7.4 million refugees of school-going age are enrolled in schools.
Furthermore, the United Nations has declared education as a basic human right; a tool to protect, empower and enlighten refugee students. These 3.4 million refugee students, however, while lucky enough to receive this human right despite their circumstances, find education at refugee camps difficult. Not that the curriculum provided is hard but because of external camp conditions which prevent them from learning effectively. We should note that globally, our focus is not solely on the enrolment statistics to get refugees into schools but also on the existing refugee students who are not being granted as quality an education as they deserve. As such, the challenges refugee students face in education should be considered.
What are the challenges refugee students face, exactly?
The 3 Challenges Refugee Students Face
1) Access to Electricity
Refugee students suffer greatly from the unstable electricity supply in their camps. Their distance from local grids is often too far to guarantee constant power supplies. Besides, even wiring up the camp to grids in the city centre is expensive as camps are built up from scratch and do not have existing infrastructure to accommodate this. The alternatives offered like diesel generators or solar panels are also either too expensive and polluting for the camp in the long run, or unstable due to everchanging weather conditions respectively.
This challenge has placed roadblocks across many refugee students’ education paths. No matter how much they may want to learn, the issue of unstable electricity impacts them more than many realise. Without lights in the classroom, natural lighting has to be relied on and classrooms are often dim. This will affect their ability to concentrate or their ability to see their work; hindering their learning experience. Furthermore, they have to make the best use of sunlight if they need time to do their homework or catch up on topics they do not understand.
With power cuts, it is not uncommon for camps to be completely dark at night. Refugee students, as a result, have to look to kerosene lamps or phone flashlights for a light source. If not, they will not be able to study effectively and in fact, many refugee students are held back in their studies so much that they cannot complete their education just because of lighting issues. Without electricity, their mobile devices cannot be charged either, leaving them with limited access to online educational resources that they may have been able to use as alternatives to official school.
2) Access to the Internet
For refugee students, the Internet is crucial for either self-educating themselves at home or to supplement what they learn in the classroom using online resources. The Internet offers an endless supply of content available for students to use and expand their own knowledge bank. Furthermore, using the Internet will make their skillsets relevant, seeing as the whole modern world has brought content online. With that, if refugee students want to enhance their future prospects, no doubt the Internet is important. However, there are a significant number of hindrances.
Many efforts have been taken to improve the challenge of accessing the Internet at refugee camps but given the distance from the well-connected cities to refugee camps, like electricity supplies, the Internet is just as unstable. Setting up of infrastructure to simply receive any signal at all will be costly and time-consuming. Until a stable Internet connection is set up, refugee students are left without the additional information online that many students worldwide take for granted. Therefore, it is now crucial for us to source for solutions that do not require the Internet while also being able to develop in these students, skills relevant to the world today.
3) Access to Mobile Devices
Mobile devices are seen as the main part of our lives and this is actually no different for refugee students. Many existing students would have access to at least one household mobile phone as refugees today see them as a basic necessity for survival. As such, a good proportion of refugee students in recent years have been using mobile devices at home to access information to gain new skills or knowledge. They may even make use of online or offline resources on their phones to continue from wherever they left off on their education journey back home.
Many schools in refugee camps have also shown great support for the use of mobile devices, to provide refugee students with quick feedback on their homework through social media platforms or to share classroom resources. Mobile devices, no doubt, play a huge role in refugee education in ensuring they receive a quality school experience that reflects the technology of today.
Mobile devices will help refugee students learn media and digital literacy to keep them updated on current events and technological trends while they learn syllabus content. However, as important as mobile devices are in providing high levels of education, a sufficient number of refugee students still do not own phones. Granted, the 29% of them are not the majority, but seeing as all refugee students should have the same level of education available to them without discrimination against those with no mobile devices, changes must be made. Thus, we reiterate that a solution for these refugee students needs to be sought to grant them a modern education they are deserving of across the board, whether they have phones or not.
Our Solution to Solve the 3 Challenges Above
Now that we have covered the challenges faced in the pursuit for quality education, our team here at The Patatas would like to suggest a solution which we think will help improve the refugee students’ education experience. At The Patatas, we strive to use technology in innovative ways and efficiently; understand our partners’ unique needs to provide suitable solutions for them and; to network with them to create change for underrepresented communities worldwide – including communities of students in refugee camps. We understand the importance of using technology in education to ensure mobility for refugee students. Intended to provide quality, modern education, we thus, came up with CaseStudy. You can check out this video here introducing the solution to you.
In short, it serves as a briefcase containing the audio-visual materials required for carrying out a class. We will explain its qualities to you below.
Its special qualities include being shockproof and waterproof, perfect given that many areas that house refugee camps often face natural disasters or other harsh weather conditions. Its plastic material is notably, highly durable and can withstand high impact too. The case is therefore, designed especially for refugee camp environments. With CaseStudy, educational materials will remain intact and do not have to constantly be recreated in event of a natural disaster, for example, which we feel is important for students who already face many limitations in resources as compared to the developed world.
Its design as a briefcase is also key in ensuring it can be transported to and from classes easily. Furthermore, with all the equipment needed for class packed into it, setting up the materials for class is convenient. This makes the teachers’ jobs easier, with fewer logistical issues which will allow classes to run smoothly. This improves the classroom experience as a whole for all and creates a positive change to refugee students’ education.
The items in CaseStudy have all been carefully selected and tested by our team, receiving many positive responses. Firstly, we included a Raspberry Pi, the content source in CaseSudy.
Fully customizable and able to accommodate about 8GB worth of different files, our addition of the Raspberry Pi was crucial. A great plus point is that it is significantly cheaper than a normal laptop or tablet even though it serves the same functions – much like a mini computer. As all the teacher’s files can be pre-loaded into it beforehand and simply shown to their class via projector and speaker, this means that classes can be conducted without the Internet. It is powered either by power bank or battery and thus, does not need a constant stream of power supply either, solving the challenge of not having access to electricity. Using this, refugee students will be able to continue attending classes with their teacher’s use of content in the Raspberry Pi without electricity, the Internet, or personal mobile devices without disruption to learning.
Secondly, we have the portable projector and speakers.
These items facilitate the dissemination of the audio-visual content in the Raspberry Pi. The projector also uses a power bank and the speakers just need to be connected to work. Any projector also works best in dim lighting, meaning that unstable electricity may in this case, now ironically aid refugee student education. The usage of these equipment does not require any of the elements refugee students may have trouble accessing as hashed out earlier, making their inclusion in CaseStudy both important and suitable given refugee camp conditions.
Lastly, we included the power banks, wires, keyboards or remote controls – accessories needed to operate the Raspberry Pi, projector and speakers together in a complementary way. Their inclusion contributes to the improved education experience refugee students will get to go through with CaseStudy, given the inclusion of relevant technology.
As you can see, CaseStudy has been designed intentionally and with great care to suit the conditions faced by refugee students. From the case itself to what goes into it, we are confident that our creation in its entirety can positively change the educational scene for refugee students; to improve their quality of learning despite their challenges.
Refugee students, no doubt, face many challenges to their education. If even being given the chance to experience education at all was difficult for them, ensuring that they are then provided with quality education is a whole other ballgame. Going to school would simply be a waste of money and resources if the conditions faced on refugee camps held the students back from learning to their best ability. As such, we believe in CaseStudy to be a viable solution. It is cheap, simple in design and utilising the equipment in it is easy to learn; while also being able to overcome the challenges in the way of refugee education. This makes it the ideal improvement to refugee students’ lives at present in the classroom, as well as in the long term when the quality education they receive translates into brighter future prospects for them.
Currently, we are aiming to bring CaseStudy to Kenya, Myanmar and Bangladesh in collaboration with our partners. We cannot wait to see the journey this innovation will take us on as we improve the lives of refugee students. If you would like to join us on this journey or show your support for projects like this with The Patatas, feel free to contact us via email or Facebook, we would love to hear from you.