Every year UNESCO hosts Mobile Learning Week with a different partner and highlights a different aspect of mobile learning. This year the partner is UNHCR and the theme is one that has special resonance for us at Ericsson: ‘Education in emergencies and crises.’
From March 20-24 representatives of the public, private and non-profit sectors are sitting down together in Paris to discuss how technology can be used to strengthen inclusion in education and preserve the continuity of learning in conflict and disaster contexts. The intention is to find new ways of working together to improve learning opportunities for refugees and other displaced people, and strengthen the impact of humanitarian interventions.
Ericsson is represented this year by Simon Muskett, Head of Education Design and Delivery for Connect to Learn (CTL) , who will present two of our mobile learning initiatives: the CTL project in northern Iraq together with a representative of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and our partnership with the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI).
Connect to Learn in northern Iraq
It’s no secret that armed conflict poses a major barrier to education. According to UNESCO, about 50% of primary-school-aged children who don’t attend school live in conflict-affected areas. In the case of Syria, for example, nearly every child attended school before the conflict started, but by 2013 – two years after the civil war started – about 1.8 million children and adolescents were out of school, many of them living in refugee camps in neighboring countries such as Iraq.
Teaching is a tough job in the best of circumstances, but teachers who work in refugee camps face a whole myriad of additional challenges: isolation, limited resources and a high level of instability in their lives and those of their students, to name a few. The IRC was particularly concerned about the situation in northern Iraq in 2014, which prompted them to approach us for help in providing education to children in the refugee camps there.
Since the start of our partnership with the IRC we have worked closely together to deploy our CTL solution in several refugee camps in northern Iraq, to provide the children of refugees and internally displaced people who live there with free access to a good quality education. The IRC purchases the equipment and trains teachers, the local operator AsiaCell provides equipment and data packages, and we deliver the technical solutions (including cloud-managed software) and remote support. To date we have provided CTL to 10 schools in refugee camps in northern Iraq, impacting more than 6,700 students and 100 teachers.
Partnership with WPDI
The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative is dedicated to helping youth in conflict-affected parts of the United States, Latin America and Africa make their communities safer and more productive. As WPDI’s technology partner, Ericsson facilitates mobile connectivity, provides access devices (computers, tablets and mobile phones) and deploys cloud-managed ICT solutions in South Sudan, Uganda and Mexico through CTL. Working with partners like mobile operator Zain, we have enabled internet access for the initiative via computer centers and leveraged expertise from our learning academy to deliver comprehensive virtual and face-to-face education in ICT and professional skills to young people in these three countries.
Mobile Learning Week has been a great inspiration to us at Ericsson since its launch in 2012, so we are delighted to have the opportunity to share two of our ‘education in emergencies and crises’ stories at this year’s event. We really hope our stories will inspire other companies to consider how their technology might be able to improve learning opportunities for people living in conflict-affected areas as well.
Zohra Yermeche is the Project Manager for the Connect To Learn initiative at Ericsson. Zohra previously worked at Ericsson Research where she focused on Multimedia technologies, helping to develop mobile platforms and contribute to patent development.