As the global spotlight falls on the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria and other Middle East regions, among its various impacts is the threat it poses to the future of millions of displaced students, who are at the risk of losing access to higher education. Taking up this unprecedented and urgent situation as its focus is The Refugee Learning Accelerator, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-led Media Lab.
With a view to bring together the engineering and tech community in the Middle East region to create solutions that improve lives of “refugee learners,” the Accelerator is organizing a six-month program -lasting from October 2017 to April 2018- to provide learning, mentorship, and funding for selected projects that benefit the status of education of refugee youth. The Accelerator’s objective is to discover and support ideas that could help refugees aged 15-24 years learn, either in a formal school system or informally. Further, the end-user of the solution could be parents, teachers, and other stakeholders too, and not just the refugee youth, says the program.
"The last few years has seen increasing interest in the potential of technology to solve problems faced by refugees. There are lots of projects using digital tools to deliver education to refugees, but only a handful of them are actually designed and delivered by people from the region," says Genevieve Barrons, Project Lead - Refugee Learning Accelerator, MIT Media Lab. "Good education must be locally contextualized--whether than means local languages, curriculum or content." She adds that the Accelerator was so designed since they "wanted to provide an opportunity for people from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine--some of the countries most affected by the current refugee crisis--to use their tech skills to support refugee learners." Accordingly, the program spells out that they are looking for innovators who share their goal of collaborating to solve the aforementioned challenge, rather than seek support to launch “the next billion dollar company.”