“Between two million and three million Syrian children are not attending school. The UN children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.” - World Vision
Millions of young men and women have fled Syria, now in its fifth year of war, halting their school or university education. In response to the crisis, regional and international initiatives have embraced the power of borderless technology in facilitating the education of refugees. Whether through an educational app or a coding bootcamp.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 initiatives using tech to prevent a lost generation of Syrians, creating educational and employment opportunities for refugees uprooted from their country struggling reboot their lives.
Founder: Mike Butcher
Techfugees was founded in 2015 as a series of tech gatherings led by the ubiquitous Mike Butcher, Tech Crunch’s editor-at large. By organizing events and hackathons, the group aims to find tech solutions to meet the needs of refugees globally. After huge success in the UK, the group quickly expanded to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and other European cities with the help of prominent partnerships with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN children's fund (UNICEF). They now organize events across 19 countries, including UAE, Jordan and Lebanon.
Founder: The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)
In early 2016, NORAD launched a competition for open source Arabic apps designed to facilitate the education of Syrian children in the country and abroad. Serving as a supplement to schooling, the apps hope to also improve the psychosocial well being of the children. At the moment, five learning game startups have been chosen for initial funding. The competition, with a budget of $1.6 million, has several prominent partners including UNICEF, that will help fund chosen applicants, as well as provide expert advice and field testing.
Founder: Wael Amin, Youssri Helmy and Ahmed Badr
Itworx Education, a division of the Egyptian educational software solutions provider Itworx, has launched several initiatives to help in the education of Syrian children. One of these initiatives includes partnering with the online platform Winjigo that enables users, or self appointed teachers in this case, to set up online virtual “schools” for refugees and plan their curriculum. Available in Arabic, it also enables online discussion groups. In September 2015, the company piloted a successful virtual schooling experience at a refugee camp in Saad Nayel, located in Lebanon’s Bekaa area.
4. Refugee OpenWare (ROW)
Founders: Louay Malhameh and Dave Levin
Founded in 2014, ROW is a Jordanian startup that joins forces with an international consortium of NGOs, corporations, academic institutions and entrepreneurs to bring 3D printing and open source hardware to refugee camps in Jordan. In 2014, the founders met with Asem Hasna in Jordan, a Syrian paramedic who lost his left leg in an explosion and trained to become a prosthetics technician. Today, He is now ROW’s 3D printing expert and prosthetic technician. ROW’s pipeline includes establishing digital fabrication laboratories and innovation centers that provide the tools and training in refugee camps regionally.
Country: United States
Founder: Hugh Bosely
Rebootkamp (RBK) is a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit that organizes tech educational bootcamps for teaching software engineering to refugees in Jordan. Launched in 2014, the bootcamps are held inside facilities called ‘Zatlabs’, which are compact, self-powered, modular, portable and scalable learning locations that contain computers and tech equipment. Several ZatLABs have already been installed in Mafraq and Amman, and bootcamps have since accepted hundreds of refugees.
Founder: Anne Riechert and Ferdi Van Heerden
This Berlin-based nonprofit is a coding school for Syrian refugees who are struggling to make a life for themselves in Germany. Founded in 2015 by Anne Kjær Riechert, the school has helped around a 100 refugees develop marketable IT skills by hosting hackathons and challenges. One participant, Khaled Alaswad, developed a platform called “Let’s Integrate”. The platform facilitates cultural exchanges between German locals and refugees, and is available in Arabic, English and German.
Country: The United States
Founder: Alexandra Clare
Founded in 2015 by US-based human rights expert Alexandra Clare, Re:coded is a coding bootcamp that targets refugees and displaced persons in Iraq. A partner with Flatiron School, an online coding school, the group aims to train young refugees to be software engineers, guaranteeing them employment within three months of completing the course. Re:coded has accepted dozens of fellows into their program, with 40 percent of them female.
Country: The United States
Founder: Lina Sergie Attar
Karam, or generosity in Arabic, is a nonprofit that launched three educational and entrepreneurial programs for hundreds of Syrian children and families inside Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Founded in Chicago in 2007, Karam enables Syrian women to start their own businesses while providing tech and media training for hundreds of Syrian youth.
Cofounders: Lean Darwish and Mohammad Sultan
These Syrian startups developed interactive Arabic coding platforms for Syrians and Arabs all over the world. Their platforms are based on the American Codeacademy school that was founded in 2011. Remmaz has over 5300 subscribers and Bitcode amassed several hundred users in the first five months of its launching. Ironically, the majority of their users are not from Syria. Remmaz’s main users are from Morocco while BitCode’s main users come from Saudi.
Founder: Janae Bushman
The US-based nonprofit plans to provide displaced Syrian children with an education through its Smartphone Schools Program. Through a set of educational apps, the program aims to provide children aged 7 to 13 with basic Arabic literacy, numeracy and life skills, including e-commerce entrepreneurship and English). They hope to reach 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017 through pilot programs in Jordan (Amman and Irbid) and Lebanon (Beirut and Sidon).