» How mobile technology is empowering displaced youth learners
24.03.2017 - Education Sector

How mobile technology is empowering displaced youth learners

© UNESCO/ Fabrice Gentile

Roland Kalamo lives and studies at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The Congolese university student and youth community activist is pursuing a degree in Applied Arts. “It is human behaviour to think that everyone is just like you and that we all are the same,” he says. “Yet, the similarities we have as humans are not applicable in all the fields.” Roland’s words kicked off the Mobile Learning Week Symposium’s on how technology can provide continuity of education for displaced learners.

Roland says that while refugee learners face numerous obstacles, they also carry the potential to transform educational practices. “A normal citizen learns to fit into society,” he says. “But a refugee brings change to a society.” For Roland, who studies with Jesuit World Learning’s online diploma program, education provides him with skills and knowledge, and empowers him as a community leader. It has brought him to think differently about his role in his community. Roland says he has learned to listen to people who do not agree with him or his ideas and seek to find common ground. While pursuing his diploma, he founded an organization with other refugees called Movement of Youth for Peace and Change, which teaches youth at Kakuma about human rights, peace building and conflict resolution through training in arts like cinema and music, language, journalism and sports.

After his own experience with mobile learning, Roland is inspired to empower other young people to understand that they are part of the solutions to their own problems. Rosalind Hudnell, President of sponsoring organization Intel Foundation, addressed his words in her plenary address. “Roland is right. A refugee is not just a refugee. A refugee is a student, a teacher, and a social transformer,” she said.   

Mobile solutions to address the challenges of displaced people

Although there are multiple obstacles such as connectivity facing refugee learners like Roland, mobile learning provides them with an opportunity to invest in their own lives and potential, gaining some control over their futures. “When a refugee is using mobile learning, they enjoy the same rights as a normal citizen and no matter the circumstances,” Roland says. “If they’re alive and have access to internet, nothing will stop them from learning.”

The program of Mobile Learning Week is designed to present diverse initiatives and facilitate discussion and collaboration between actors across different sectors of society. Participants, whether national ministers of education or leaders at a grassroots NGO, will return to their countries with plans and solutions toward successfully integrating mobile technologies to aid education in crises.

Mobile Learning Week exhibited two UNHCR tents used by refugee families, one assembled with a living kit to manifest the living and learning conditions of those displaced, and another with live demonstrations of mobile-learning solutions designed to work in unstable conditions or without internet connectivity.

Interactive Workshops, from a solar-powered digital audio player for teacher education in South Sudan, to smartphone games for Syrian refugee children, demonstrated how mobile solutions are able to meet the unique challenges of displaced people.

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