Technology as a Development Tool
“As a daughter of Palestinian refugees… I felt the need to help alleviate the plight of children whose education has been stolen from them.” — Rudayna Abdo
Thaki and Anera
For years now, Anera has been working on all sorts of educational projects in Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan with marginalized and refugee communities. Programs include formal and nonformal education, early childhood development and vocational and skill-based learning. Thaki is an Amsterdam-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower refugee and vulnerable children with extremely limited educational opportunities to learn and thrive through self-paced, motivational e-learning tools. Thaki distributes donated laptops that are preloaded with software and engaging educational content, to partner organizations working directly with the children. Partners like Anera!
“I grew up with the mantra that the only thing you can take with you is your education. As a daughter of Palestinian refugees, myself displaced from Lebanon during the civil war in the mid-1970s, and as a mother, I felt the need to help alleviate the plight of children whose education has been stolen from them,” says Rudayna Abdo, Thaki’s founder.
Anera has been exploring digital and online learning opportunities as a means to expand our educational programs and help refugee youth access good quality and free-of-charge education. Last year we partnered with Arizona State University for a very successful online English language learning pilot program,which we are running again this year. We also launched a joint initiative with ReBootKamp (RBK), a coding boot camp in Jordan and Palestine, last year. Our partnership with Thaki is an opportunity for both organizations to expand our reach and mutual vision.
“One of my dreams is not only to help children regain their lost years but to unlock their potential and help them leapfrog over the gap. I’m a big believer in using technology to ignite the passion for learning and I strongly believe that digital literacy skills are a basic prerequisite for meaningful and lucrative participation in the global economy,” says Rudayna.
Anera’s math and literacy program for youth targets adolescents who had to leave school at an early age due to forced migration, the need to find work and support their families, or minor learning difficulties.
“Before the global pandemic nightmare, we met with the Thaki team and decided to utilize Thaki’s laptops to enrich our literacy and math curriculum, specifically the English and IT classes. We distributed laptops among our local partners, who are either educational charities or not-for-profit learning centers in several areas such as Beirut, Mount Lebanon and Saida,” says Maria Berbari, our basic math and literacy program and capacity-building specialist who worked closely with Thaki and is now leading the team of coordinators and tutors.
Thaki’s team trained Anera’s education staff in Lebanon on how to use the laptops and their software. We have taken that knowledge and are training all the educators at our local partners’ centers. Thaki’s laptops are not only supporting hundreds of marginalized, and often illiterate youth in Lebanon in continuing their education, but they are giving them a chance to do so in an innovative manner, making education a fun experience. “They work for everyone, anytime and everywhere,” says Maria.
Mariam Akar, a 22-year-old tutor and a Palestinian refugee, from Lebanon, says,
“When I first joined Anera’s e-learning program, I faced some difficulties and I was hesitant. I mean this is new! But after a while I was able to get the hang of things. I completed the e-training and I got my training certificate and laptop. I was ready!”
“Like some other organizations across the globe, we recycle laptops. Our distinction is that we offer an offline learning solution, accounting for poor internet connectivity. Our ‘plug and play’ system is loaded with 70GB of high-quality offline learning content from the likes of National Geographic, Oxford University Press, Little Thinking Minds, Edraak – to name a few.”
Our education team in Lebanon had just finalized the planning stage of our multi-dimensional learning and employability program for youth in Lebanon when the Lebanese authorities announced a lockdown throughout the country and educational centers closed as a result. All of Anera’s program teams in Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan had to halt, assess this new reality, and then reroute our paths while aiming to reach our initial destination.
In response to COVID-19, we developed our plan B and focused on moving to the virtual learning terrain — a space where Thaki’s laptops excel. The laptops are the perfect tool for teaching Anera’s English language and life-skills curriculums.
“We distributed the laptops to ALL of our educational partners in Lebanon. Everyone wanted in! Teachers are using the laptops to help them plan their classes and deliver them. And students are using tablets from Anera. We also learned that the teachers are using the laptops to help their own children with their homework,” Maria says.
We received a new shipment of laptops in April 2020. This new batch of computers fits perfectly with the scaling up of our online learning program, which includes more and more young educators and students.