WISE Accelerator

Learn Syria

Activity: Bringing free digital education to Syrian refugees via a collaborative platform and tablets that work offline.

Name of the Organization: The Rumie Initiative

Headquarter: Toronto, Canada

Geographical reach: Global

Number of beneficiaries: 25,000+

Project Representative: Mr. Tariq Fancy

Websites: http://www.rumie.org

WISE Accelerator Project: Learn Syria

About the Project

Millions of Syrian refugee children lack access to education and risk becoming a lost generation.

Rumie launched #LearnSyria in 2015 to bring free digital education to these millions of refugee children. #LearnSyria was inspired by Rumie's successful project in Liberia during the Ebola crisis, which showed that Rumie's affordable, customizable, and portable tablets are easily adaptable in humanitarian crises.

Working with local partners and thousands of skilled volunteers online, Rumie built a full digital Syrian curriculum for children from grades 1-12 for autonomous learning. Rumie loaded this content onto its learning tablets that work fully offline and asynchronously collect impact data, and deployed them through local partners in Turkey.

Seeing extremely positive initial impact led Rumie to crowdfund for thousands more tablets for Syrian refugees. #LearnSyria has since expanded to Lebanon. Rumie aims to form more partnerships in the region to bring this affordable, portable and customized learning tool to more children in need.

Context and Issue

The Syrian civil war has caused a humanitarian crisis in which millions of children have lost access to education and are now at risk of becoming a lost generation. The majority of these children are dispersed throughout Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan; these countries cannot accommodate the enormous influx of students within the existing capacity of their educational systems. A problem this big requires a new way of doing things -- and Rumie has one.

An enormous amount of learning content has recently become available free online, and the cost of computer hardware is decreasing fast. However, there is still a significant number of children who do not have access to the Internet and are therefore unable to access all of this great learning content. These learning resources are also not organized by quality or into coherent lessons that can be used autonomously. This means that the millions of children who are idle and eager to go to school could potentially access learning materials for free – but cannot.

The Solution and Impact

Rumie leverages two economic trends – the exponential growth in free learning content available online and the rapidly plummetting cost of hardware to deliver this content – to make education better, cheaper and more accessible for children around the world. Rumie also channels the energy of skilled volunteers online to organize open source learning content into lessons designed for autonomous use, and then delivers these lessons to children on low-cost tablets.

For #LearnSyria, Rumie worked with NGOs in Turkey and Lebanon to develop locally-relevant digital curriculums that could be used offline. Impact has been extremely positive: partners state that the tablets have led to improved numeracy and literacy outcomes and have enabled them to accommodate more students within their existing capacity. The tablets also let students make up for missed school on their own time so they don't have to choose between education and working to support their families. One other unexpected outcome is a significant impact on a child's mental health.

Future Developments

Rumie is working to expand #LearnSyria to reach the many more children in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon who don't have access to education. Through strong relationships with large NGOs as well as the Ministries of Education in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, Rumie will scale up its impact significantly. Rumie also constantly works to improve its tablet software and make the content available on its tablets more comprehensive and locally relevant. With the help of its volunteers, who for the #LearnSyria project contributed thousands of hours of time finding, organizing and vetting content online, Rumie will increase the breadth of the content on the tablets, making it easier for students to find the resources they need.

Finally, Rumie will also create an Android app through which anyone will be able to freely access all of this open source learning content. This way, #LearnSyria's impact will exponentially grow, letting millions of Syrian youth learn whatever they need to for free through their own smartphone or tablet.