» UNESCO prize-winning platform gives education, integration and hope to refugees
15.02.2017 - Education Sector

UNESCO prize-winning platform gives education, integration and hope to refugees

© Kiron Open Higher Education

A platform developed to widen access to higher education for refugees as a first step towards integration is one of the two winners of the 2016 UNESCO King Hamad Prize for the Use of ICTs in Education.

Founded in 2015 in Germany, Kiron Open Higher Education is an innovative blended-learning education platform that provides free, fast and easy access to higher education for refugees worldwide regardless of their asylum status.

It is designed to harness the potential of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) through a single online platform to ensure equitable access to quality education. Smartphones or other portable devices permit students to access the courses from any country and any location including shelters and camps.

Those caught in lengthy processing of applications do not have to wait to be enrolled in a university but can start studying with Kiron straightaway free of charge. The online course offer in English covers four domains Business and Economics, Engineering, Computer Science and Social Sciences and can lead to an accredited bachelor university degree.

“Kiron sees itself as a bridge builder between refugees and partner universities”, said European Affairs Manager Oliver Klawitter. “Our aim is above all to empower our students to integrate socially and economically into society in order to take back control of their futures.”

Apart from study, students can attend online and offline language courses to improve their English or the language of their host country. In Study Centres, they have access to computers, the internet and a quiet working atmosphere, along with a friend and mentoring programme and access to an online counselling service.

Workeer, a job platform that connects more than 3000 registered users with over 2,200 employees, has created internships and jobs for around 50 students so far.

Refugee is highest performing student

Ahmad is one of Kiron’s success stories. Forced to leave Syria for Istanbul he worked at various jobs before finding Kiron. He soon became their highest performing student after completing 23 courses in political science in six months. With Kiron’s recommendation he received a full scholarship at Bard University in Berlin.

Sajida is 20 years old and from Syria. She had just started studying at university when the family had to lead Damascus for Turkey where she worked in a garment factory, a Syrian restaurant and a library before finally arriving in Berlin and enrolling to study mechanical engineering with Kiron.

“I wanted to become an engineer since I can think and I know that I will be an engineer one day,” she said. “When I go back to Syria I want to contribute to the post-war reconstruction efforts and empower more women to join Kiron.”

Mr Klawitter said Kiron hopes to replicate the resource in other contexts and countries especially where there is high demand in terms of refugees and is currently strengthening its French branch. “Winning this prize means we have gained credibility and visibility on an international rather than just a German scale and this will allow us to reach out into Europe to support integrate even more refugees into society by increasing access to our courses.

“The prize money will go a long way to facilitating the evolution of Kiron in France, to the ultimate benefit of its students.” he said.

Both prizewinners will be awarded by the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the Minister of Education of the Kingdom of Bahrain at a special ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, on Tuesday 21 February 2016. They will both receive a diploma and USD 25,000. 

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