A Syrian child living as a refugee in Lebanon is far more likely to be gathering cilantro, digging up potatoes, or simply staying home than going to school. There are approximately 800,000 Syrian children in Lebanon, and 75 percent of them are not enrolled in school. The refugee youth face education obstacles, such as lack of official papers, limited school capabilities, transportation difficulties, and underprepared teachers. There is also a language barrier. In Syria, children are taught to read and write in Arabic, but public schools in Lebanon use English or French. Additionally, many refugee parents need to earn money, so children are required to help in the fields.
Many of these youth want the same thing: to play with their friends, help their families, and have the opportunity to receive an education that will lead to becoming a doctor or a teacher someday. But any steps the Lebanese government could take to help the situation—build schools, train more teachers, provide transportation—would take time and money to implement.
In response to the White House Call to Action to make “new, measurable and significant commitments that will have a durable impact on refugees residing in countries on the frontlines of the global refugee crisis and in countries of resettlement, like the United States”, Microsoft is answering the call. We are committed to continue working with governments, international organizations and NGOs to deliver greater opportunity and empower displaced people around the world.
Specifically, we are focused on:
Enablement through Connectivity: More than 50% of people in the world have no internet connectivity. Enabling aid organizations to serve people in need with greater insight and efficiency, while also providing refugees and displaced people access to technology to aid with economic opportunities is a priority. A good example of this is our TV White Space initiative where we’re partnering with local internet providers around the world to bring broadband connectivity to some of the 4 billion people who are not currently online. We are delivering broadband TV White Space connectivity in Malawi to support aid organizations and refugees. We are also providing broadband connectivity to 15 schools in Lebanon and 26 more in Egypt. Further, in Botswana, Kenya, Colombia, the Philippines, and Jamaica, these projects help to get consumers, businesses, schools, community centers, and police stations online for the first time, deliver telemedicine to rural areas, and facilitate disaster relief efforts. Many refugees and displaced people say that internet connection is more important than electricity.
Empowerment through Education: With our Microsoft partners and NGOs, we invest in providing technology to deliver refugees educational services to provide them with opportunities to gain digital literacy and computer science skills that can open up future employment opportunities.
For example, our Microsoft CityNext partner ITWORX Education launched a pilot program at the Saad Nayel refugee camp in the Zahle district, near the border of southwestern Syria. The first phase of the program was to set up K-12 learning centers inside the camp so that transportation to a school wouldn’t be a hurdle. Next, community and volunteer teachers attended trainings at the learning centers to develop their teaching skills. Teachers and students were provided with tablets running WinjiGo, an online learning platform that uses Microsoft Azure for cloud development and hosting, in addition to applications based on Office 365. ITWORX Education then trained teachers on how to lead discussions and apply problem-based learning using WinjiGo interactive social classes. Teachers quickly learned how to build simple digital content mapped to lesson plans and curriculum. With WinjiGo, teachers can easily track students’ needs and performance, and provide insightful support and mentorship.
The pilot program is providing a safe learning environment within the Saad Nayel community, and students can reach out to teachers who live outside of the camp for help, whenever they want. Students can also access their schoolwork anytime, allowing them flexibility to participate in family life and help support their parents’ needs. They now have an opportunity get the education they deserve, as they prepare for more formal schooling and continue to dream about their futures.
Transformation through Employment: we are committed to leveraging our technology, partnerships and programs to help prepare refugees for employment opportunities and build better lives.
Through Microsoft’s Imagine Academy and in partnership with Pearson Education, we are delivering opportunities for 20,000 refugees to learn and gain globally-recognized certifications that can qualify them to pursue in-demand jobs in the technology sector.
In partnership with Mercy Corps, we are supporting the development of a 12-month program to deliver training, counseling and psychosocial support to 10,000 refugee and migrant youth to enhance their social and emotional well-being, learning and employability.
Aligned with the United National Development Program (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and and the International Labour Organization (ILO), we are investing in economic assessments to better understand employment opportunities and areas for refugee engagement in six countries affected by waves of Syrian refugees, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.
We are investing in an “Innovation Hub” where refugees can develop technology and entrepreneurial skills and networking that they can use to start their own business and to prepare for employment opportunities in the tech field.
We believe that cloud technology can empower people to connect, learn, rebuild lives and create more promising futures. That’s why we’re not only answering the White House Call to Action but also focusing on helping countries meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
But we can’t do it alone. We believe in the power of partnerships and of people from all backgrounds working together to solve these critical challenges.
I invite you to do the following:
- View how we are supporting the White House and UNHCR Call-to-Action to do more to enable refugees.
- Sign up as a Global Citizen
- Follow me on Twitter @ToniTWhitley as I relay our #MSFTempowers insights while at the UN GA this week
- Learn more about how we are Empowering Countries
1 YouTube video. “Sustainable Education for Refugees.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKTPGPQGB1k