Children on the Edge and Mukti are pioneering digital learning to overcome language barriers and deliver meaningful education for 7,500 Rohingya refugee children in the Kutupalong camp, Bangladesh; winning them this year’s education prize at the 2020 Tech4Good Awards.
Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar in regular waves of displacement since the early 1990s. Genocidal attacks in August 2017 drove more than 742,000 people to seek refuge in Bangladesh, over half of which were children.
Children on the Edge has been ensuring access for Rohingya refugee children in the Kutupalong camp since 2009, originally creating low-profile schools to enable learning for thousands who were cut off from services. Whilst the Bangladesh government currently allows education in the camp, children are not permitted to learn in Bangla and there is no universally recognised script for the Rohingya language. This means that the workbook based education generally on offer is severely limited.
To tackle this problem, Children on the Edge provided 75 smartphones and battery powered projectors to their schools in the camps. Their digital team translated or dubbed existing digital educational content into the Rohingya dialect. This is now regularly sent via WhatsApp to teachers’ smartphones, which slot into the battery-powered projectors in the classrooms.
After the initial pilot, child after child expressed joy and disbelief to be able to finally understand the lessons being presented. 1.5 hours of digital lessons are now delivered twice a day across all classrooms in the camps and their sister schools in the Cox’s Bazar communities.
In this year’s AbilityNet Tech4Good awards, this digital innovation was chosen for the Lenovo education award, recognising outstanding digital achievement in education. In its 10th year, Tech4Good judges reported a record breaking 400 entries with Mark Walker, AbilityNet’s Head of Marketing and Communications saying “Our tenth year has seen more entries than ever, with hundreds of amazing examples of how tech can help to make the world a better place”.
Rich Henderson, Director of Global Education Solutions at Lenovo said
Programme staff report that the initiative is enjoying an overwhelmingly positive response from children and teachers alike. Interviews with students have already shown how digital learning and digital video production is inspiring children and giving them fresh confidence that they will be able to compete in the job market of a globalised world.
Henderson goes on to say “Learning about the transformative work of Children on the Edge was uplifting, especially given the current tech and education divide. The organisation’s efforts should propel all other individuals and organisations in the tech space to follow suit by putting digital tech to good use”.
Rohingya refugee children have also gone on to use the technology to have their voices heard and to interact outside the camps and slums. Through their own online platform named Moja kids, they have recorded dozens of ‘green screen’ and outdoor news videos, which have been shared back and forth between camp and community schools.
“Seeing themselves on screen was literally jaw dropping and
The aim is that this platform will become a global online community with no other agenda than for children to be able express their ideas and talents, connecting and communicating beyond the confines of their challenging surroundings.
As the result of a recent Crowdfunder, simple tech equipment is already being sourced for three thriving Child Rights Clubs supported by Children on the Edge in Uganda, so they can connect with children in Bangladesh and be the next set of voices to share their thoughts and experiences as part of Moja Kids.
A Lebanese themed ‘dine in’ event, organised by Chichester based chef Juliet Graham has raised £1,375 for Children on the Edge’s Beirut explosion appeal.
2020 has been a year like no other. The global pandemic has created universal challenges to accessing education that millions have never faced before and the traditional model of teaching in a classroom environment has had to quickly adapt to the new normal.