Mobile phone on table

Virtual Education in Conflict Zones

The challenge of educating children in conflict zones cannot be overstated. Fortunately, there is a solution: If we cannot bring children to the classroom, then we should bring the classroom to the children, in the form of a mobile phone loaded with teaching materials.

LONDON – Educating refugees and children in conflict zones is one of the biggest challenges facing the international community. Their schools have been reduced to rubble. Their teachers have fled or are struggling to survive. Their libraries have been looted or burned.

Fortunately, solutions are possible. After all, these days, compelling lectures and well-stocked libraries are available at the click of a button. A bold pilot project, sponsored by the Dubai-based MBR Foundation, reflects this reality. The best coursework on offer – in mathematics, science, foreign languages, and literature – can be loaded onto a mobile phone and placed in a student’s hand. If the 58 million children who are currently unable to attend school cannot be brought to a classroom, then the classroom must be brought to them.

Aid groups are already blazing the trail, using the Internet to provide Syrian refugees with educational opportunities. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, for example, is holding an international competition – called eduapp4Syria – to develop smartphone applications that “can build foundational literacy skills in Arabic and improve psychosocial wellbeing for Syrian refugee children aged five to 10.”