Connected Learning for All
One year after UNHCR launched our Connected Learning Hubs throughout Jordan, refugee and Jordanian students alike, continue to benefit from the latest online education technology.
Down a dusty alleyway, in Rihab, on the outskirts of Mafraq in Northern Jordan, you would not expect what appears to be an anonymous building from the outside, to actually be a centre of learning, equipped with computers, tablets and the latest online learning tools.
Mohammad, a Syrian refugee, has been teaching classes at the Connected Learning Hub for the last year. Every day 40 students, aged 13 to 17, pass through the doors, a mix of both Jordanians and refugees living in the local community.
“Even if there is no class, they come here every morning to say hi,” Mohammad says.
After completing his first year of university back in Syria, Mohammad explains that he had to start again when the conflict forced him and his family to flee to Jordan. Using all his savings to fund his own way through an English Literature degree at AlBayt university in Mafraq, from where he graduated in 2017, Mohammad subsequently found himself not able to find a job.
“I know this is quite common in Jordan, for Jordanians not just refugees to not find a job, but I had sacrificed so much to get my degree. I worked two jobs around my studies so my family would have enough money. I’m the oldest of my siblings, I had to be an example to them. For it not to result in anything was devastating.”
For a year, Mohammad searched for work. Taking anything that came his way, even if it wasn’t directly related to his speciality. But then he had a bit of luck. An advert for a position at the community centre in Rihab, teaching English, Arabic, Coding and STEM subjects as part of UNHCR’s Connected Learning Hub.
Approximately one year after UNHCR launched 10 Connected Learning Hubs throughout Jordan, supported by Google and Learning Equality and operated by local NGO Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), Mohammad explains that the impact on refugee children has been huge. Especially in Rihab, where previously, apart from the local school, there wasn’t any other center for learning.
“Now many of my students are writing English. Before they even struggled with basic Arabic, so seeing them progress in a second language…I am so proud.”
Mohammad says that the innovative approach that the learning hub brings means that the students don’t really view it as education in the same way they do at school. That due to the informal, collaborative approach, the students are excited to come, to participate in the online ‘games’ which are actually teaching them important skills such as coding.
“Most families around here don’t have computers, and even in the school students only have a basic computer lab where they have to share resources,” explains Mohammad. In comparison, the individual approach that the Connected Learning Hub has, employing a non-traditional learning approach through the Kolibri learning platform, which allows learning in multiple languages, has been a big hit.
In addition to the core program, Mohammad also supports the students with their homework, preparing for exams coming up at school and in general being a sounding board for any problems that they are facing. “I’m sort of famous in Rihab,” he jokes, “Everyone now knows who I am, just because of this small learning hub.” It is a sense of responsibility which Mohammad didn’t quite expect when signing up to the job but one that he now relishes, acting as a focal point between UNHCR and the local refugee population.
The ripple effects of connected learning program within the wider community have been significant. “Creating an educated younger generation, also means that the adults are more likely to also want learn new things. To keep up with their children,” Mohammad explains.
In a rural community, where the majority of work opportunities are confined to agriculture, this can only have a positive impact. Step by step, the Connected Learning Hub is changing perspectives and encouraging refugee and Jordanian youth to think of an alternate future. It is giving children hope.