Problem: Since the beginning of the Syrian crises in March 2011, thousands of refugees are continuing to stream across Syria’s borders into neighbouring countries in search of security and protection. As of January 2014, a total of 819,239 Syrian refugees were registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, half of which were children. Over 252,000 Syrian refugee children are of school-age, but only 30% are enrolled in school.

Disruption of learning significantly threatens the prospects of Syrian refugee children and increases their exposure to protection risks. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) in Lebanon has taken an open and active approach to the education needs of this group and has granted them the right to enrol in public schools. However, since the beginning of the school year last October, MEHE managed to accommodate only 75,000 Syrian children (or 30%) in public schools, leaving the rest without a place in the education system.

Common barriers to education of Syrian refugee children include:

  • Lack of space in public schools and overstretched resources
  • Cost of tuition fees and transportation
  • Differences between Lebanese and Syrian curriculum, including language barriers
  • Safety concerns of Syrian parents
  • Limited psychosocial support to help traumatised children
  • Lack of access to a clean environment and modern cleaning equipment

Given this host of challenges, especially the limited capacity of Lebanese public schools, there has been a growing recognition that solutions to some of these problems lie outside of the formal education system.

In the last decade, non-formal education (NFE) has gained momentum as both a
substitute and supplement for formal education. NFE uses alternative forms of organising education and different teaching/learning methods to provide basic education as well as valuable skills for children’s personal development and future employability. NFE plays an integral role in helping children overcome exclusion, especially in emergencies.

Creativity and flexibility are at the heart of NFE. There are a growing number of projects that use innovative ways to provide non-formal access to education through low-cost, readily available hardware and software. O Country Office in Lebanon is currently prototyping one of these initiatives – Digital Labs – that allow children in a classroom or refugee camp to access educational resources through a cheap desktop PC or tablet. The content can be updated periodically, both online or offline, which makes it ideal for low-resource environments.ur

Reference country: Lebanon

Choose an entry point:

entry-bulletHow can we scale the concept of Digital Labs throughout classrooms and refugee camps in Lebanon? One possible strategy is to produce the necessary hardware locally (reference the Kano product). Another is to work directly with suppliers to procure the hardware in large volumes.

entry-bulletWhat other existing or new low-cost/low-power hardware or technologies can be used to help Syrian refugee children access quality educational content?

entry-bulletWhat additional steps need to be taken to ensure that Syrian children with special needs have access to equal educational opportunities? How can technology be used in further creative ways to achieve this goal?

Key partners:

Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE)
Foundation for Learning Equality
University of Balamand
District authorities
Refugee community