Conflict and war have triggered widespread dislocation of people on a scale not seen since the end of the Second World War. For many of them, education is the only hope to rebuild futures and pursue productive, meaningful lives. However, the growing complexity of emergencies means that conventional approaches to education may no longer be adequate. Refugee children and youth are in urgent need of learning opportunities that are easily accessible, relevant to the real world and designed for scalability and long-term impact.
In this Special Focus, find out what experts have to say and innovative projects that are transforming vulnerable communities into forces of societal change through education
Innovating Higher Education for Refugee Learners
Ms Ashley Haywood
Kiziba Refugee Campus Director, Kepler
Refugee Girls Need Our Attention — Not Just on World Refugee Day, But Every Day
Ms Farah Mohamed
Chief Executive Officer, Malala Fund
Refugee Children Empowered by Technology to Learn
Ms Rebecca Leege
All Children Reading Project Director, World Vision
Making Early Education a Priority for Refugee Children
Ms Sherrie Rollins Westin
Executive Vice President, Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop
The Tale of Two Mohammads
Founder and Executive Director, ReBootKamp (RBK)
Mohammad A. graduated from a top-rated university in Jordan in 2013 with an ICT (computer science) degree. After a year searching for a job, he was hired by a regional telco for 300 JD ($500) per month. Even though the job was in the call center, he considered himself lucky. Of the 6,000 ICT graduates produced by Jordan's universities each year, 400 find jobs in the tech industry.
Mohammad A. worked hard and applied for more relevant positions when they became available. Each time, he was turned down and grew more frustrated. At his annual performance review, his manager told him he was not meeting expectations in 3 areas - soft skills, self-learning and problem solving.
Now with a wife and young child, he resolved to improve himself. He read Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.' His alma mater did not provide much alumni support so he turned to the internet. He spent hours watching TED talks and trying to understand how to become a more effective communicator. He took night classes in Android development and signed up for an online training in critical thinking.
All this paid off and 14 months into his tenure, he was promoted to a junior developer. Today Mohammad earns 470 JD ($620) per month as part of the team maintaining the telco's mobile applications.
Mohammad B. was trained as a mechanic in 2012 but had no luck finding a job in this field. In the spring of 2016 he was working as a cashier for 250 JD a month.
Desperate to make a better life for his pregnant wife and future child, Mohammad B. enrolled in RBK's 18-week immersive technica training program. The program uses Hack Reactor's curriculum to produce ground-ready software engineers with 5 essential skill sets required by industry.
Mohammad B. had no prior experience programming and struggled the first month. Ramadan coincided with the beginning of the immersive phase (12-16 hours per day) and his struggle turned into survival training.
Early technical assessments were mixed but Mohammad B. maintained focus. Despite the heavy physical and emotional stress, his technical scores steadily improved. Equally important, his social and emotional intelligence increased. He became more autonomous in his ability to acquire and synthesize information. He tapped his creative potential. He became a better problem solver.
Mohammad B. graduated in late August 2016 and immediately began interviewing. Within several weeks, he had multiple offers for employment. He found his place building custom mobile-web applications for an insurance software provider. Mohammad B. was hired as a mid-level software engineer for 3,200 JD ($4,500) per month.
Two Mohammads. Same age. Both have new families. Both work in Amman. One spent 4 years in college and makes 470 JD ($620) a month. The other spent 4 months at RBK and is making 3,200 JD ($4,500) a month. The former struggles to provide for his new family. The latter is shopping for a new house and banking money for his child's future.
The story above illustrates the power of new educational technologies to rapidly empower refugee youth with sought-after skills to help them move from poverty to prosperity while meeting the demands of industry.
Unemployment is high across the MENA region. This is not due to the lack of jobs but the disconnect between traditional forms of training and the market place. Universities are fast becoming obsolete. In fact, if you want to DECREASE your chances of employment, spend 4 years in a university.
Immersive career accelerators do in 4 months what universities cannot do in 4 years: Deliver high quality, English speaking engineers and technicians with strong soft skills, strong problem solving ability and strong autonomous learning ability. In the United States, career accelerators have been extant for 5 years now. During this time, they have demonstrated tens of thousands of times how ineffective traditional (university) pedagogies are in imparting skill sets demanded by industry. Evidence is building agile training will soon replace traditional pedagogies across a range of technical professions including architecture, engineering, graphic arts, medical arts, nursing, and a dozen other disciplines.
Forced displacement is tragic but there are many ways to turn lemons into lemonade. Using powerful new education technologies to rapidly skill up refugees for the digital economy and 4th Industrial Revolution is making a great difference in the lives of refugees in Jordan.
The Mohammads and Fatemas in the Middle East now have another choice and one that will ultimately increase their standard of living while increasing the competiveness of their employers.