Techfugees has forged a partnership with the Syria Relief charity and the British Council to deliver a new method of educating Syrian IDPs (internally displaced people) and others affected by the conflict. We announced the partnership, which is a pilot project, during the recent Techfugees first Global Summit in Paris. This is the first of several blog posts about the project.

The online courses are tailored to Syrian teachers.

The back story

Last Autumn of 2016, technology entrepreneur David Cazalet reached out to us with the idea of Requiem for Aleppo, a non political musical homage to the people of the war-torn city. The Requiem was to premiere at the famous Sadler’s Wells, and given David’s passion for the transformative power of technology, he wanted to explore a possible partnership with Techfugees.

We agreed to help boost the profile and fundraising potential of the premiere by:

  • Organising a professional live stream of the performance
  • Hosting ticketed screenings of the performance around the world via our local chapters

This resulted in:

  • Access to the performance for anyone around the world
  • Extra funds being raised from the performance through local screenings
  • Boosted profile for the performance
  • A permanent record of the performance, hosted on YouTube

Requiem for Aleppo

What we did next

The next phase involved focusing the relief effort and, from our side, deciding which solutions would work best for the target group’s needs.

Syria Relief has been involved in charitable work in Syria since 2011, when the conflict began. As such, they bring a huge amount of expertise to the table, as well as physical presence in the crisis area.

The charity is, for the purposes of this project, interested in improving the lives and career prospects of Syrian teachers. The war has had a very damaging impact on the Syrian education system, with many teachers fleeing their homes, schools, and the country itself. 

Techfugees aims to “empower the displaced with technology’’ and a big part of that is boosting the impact that NGOs have on the ground with specialised and curated tech. After discussions with David Cazalet and Anna Farina of Syria Relief, we decided to explore the possibility of online courses. Techfugees would be responsible for curating and helping to manage an online English course.

English is a key need because:

  • It is a global language (arguably, the global language)
  • It opens up access to the English language internet
  • It enables and facilitates learning of other subjects
  • Displaced people may need to use English to communicate with people in other regions
  • It will be a key factor in the rebuilding and future of Syria

The advantage of using online courses in crisis areas are:

  • No need to travel (which can be dangerous)
  • Often not possible to follow a conventional timetable for logistical reasons
  • Students can learn in their own time
  • Lower infrastructure costs
  • Scalable (with certain provisos: support staff being one of them)

In Syria, mobile and internet infrastructure is still sufficient to allow students to connect.

The biggest challenge was probably in procurement. We had to find an online course that:

  • Is pedagogically sound (i.e. written and structured by professionals with solid methodology, as opposed to content placed online with little or no structure, as is often the case)
  • Delivers measurable results
  • Works well on mobile
  • Had a communicative aspect (i.e. they have to actually use the language to communicate with others, rather than just doing grammar exercises)

We eventually decided that the best partner for the project would be The British Council, because:

  • They are leaders in English language teaching
  • They have been using technology in their classrooms extensively for many years
  • They have excellent online courses that fit our requirements
  • Their courses include a “virtual classroom’’ with regular moderated sessions with a real teacher, so they can practice the language
  • The courses produce internationally recognised certification

What we are doing now and how this will make a difference (OETIS)

Techfugees is involved in the weekly management of the project. We add layers of value through:

  • Expertise in tech (evaluating, curating and helping to deploy solutions)
  • Expertise in education
  • Project management
  • Developing a narrative that weaves together a brilliant creative idea in the Requiem with metrics, scalability and technology, which aims to raise further funds. This will take the form of blog posts, social media, videos, and PR

The project is known as OETIS: Online English for English Teachers in Syria. It is a four-way collaboration between Techfugees, The British Council, Syria Relief and Requiem for Aleppo/ David Cazalet.

Impact

The teachers on the programme are teaching primary age learners, up to 10th grade. Due to the conflict, many learners are behind by two or more grades, so they may be up to 16 years of age, or even older.

As we have 120 teachers on the programme, with the plan to add another 120, and each teacher teaching up to 60 students, we envision up to 20,000 indirect beneficiaries from this phase of the programme.

IMAGES COURTESY OF SYRIA RELIEF

 

It is too early to report specific data, but:

  • We gave each student a “placement test’’ so we know their level of ability before starting the course
  • The platform is giving us useful metrics, so we know how long people are spending on the courses, as well as how they are performing. This means we will be able to prove that the courses are making a difference.
  • Testing at the beginning and end of the courses, mapped to the CEF (Common European Framework) give us internationally recognisable data on students’ progress
  • We are also gathering qualitative data from course moderators, which enable us to improve the user experience

To follow news of the project, follow the Requiem for Aleppo or OETIS project tag.

Some quotes from our partners and Techfugees HQ:

“At Syria Relief we are extremely honoured to work in collaboration with David Cazalet, Techfugees and British Council for the implementation of such an innovative and impactful project. We firmly believe that quality education is the backbone of Syria future and teachers are playing an extremely important role on the ground at the moment. The beauty of this project is the link between art, music, technology and direct presence on the ground: the very successful Requiem for Aleppo performance allowed raising enough funds to combine technological solution for providing on-line English training and set up a fully functional training centre managed by Syria Relief team on the ground where teachers can receive specialised courses such as Teaching in Emergency, Psychosocial Support, Child protection, etc.”- Anna Farina, Syria Relief

Personally, I truly enjoying working with such a professional and capable group of people and I do believe that the amazing results coming from this project will have a tangible positive effects on thousands if children inside Syria”  

“As composer and producer of Requiem for Aleppo I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved to date. I spent a great deal of time researching the right partners for this project as I wanted to make a tangible and provable immediate difference to the situation in Syria on the ground. This has now happened and the project will continue to grow as Requiem for Aleppo now tours the world. It could not have been done without the incredible support and vision of Syria Relief, Techfugees and the British Council.”- David Cazalet, composer, Requiem for Aleppo and project donor

“With 64 million displaced people in the world, one in two of which are under the age of 18, comes the responsibility of supporting a generation into adulthood without leaving them behind,” says Joséphine Goube, CEO of Techfugees. “Thanks to wireless and mobile Tech, we can reach children in refugee camps and people trapped in war-torn countries. The aim of this partnership is to provide displaced people in Syria, and hopefully in other places soon, with a safe, secure and high quality education platform.”- Joséphine Goube, CEO, Techfugees

”Techfugees is a bridge between the world of tech and NGOs on the ground in crisis situations. We help NGOs to develop, procure and deploy situation-relevant tech solutions that can scale. We chose the British Council as our edtech partner because their MOOC is very well designed and based on solid teaching methodology, with a good blend of engaging and communicative activities. We hope that the same model can be adapted to other courses and other situations in the future” -Tom Hayton, Project Manager.