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Edu4syria: Syrian war-affected kids get a Digital way to Study

Thanks to war, over 4 million Syrian children are not in school and have never learned to read

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Syrian children in Lebanese school. Image source Wikimedia commons
  • War trauma makes learning more difficult in kids, negatively affects memory, concentration and other cognitive abilities 
  • Edu4Syria is game-based learning app to reach kids, displaced inside Syria or refugees
  • The app will engage children and help them in motivational literacy learning games

With numbers that will certainly shock minds, the Syrian Center for Policy Research reports the killing of 250,00 to 470,000 people. Due to the war complexities and chaos, the United Nations announces that it stopped trying to track those killed saying it could no longer accurately confirm the number.

The destruction of Syria was summed up this way by a report released by the U.N. human rights agency released in February: “…Civilians bear the brunt of intensifying hostilities conducted by an ever-increasing number of warring parties. As their country is reduced to ruins around them, Syrian men, women and children – often the objects of deliberate attack – are fleeing their homes in an uncertain and often perilous search for safe haven.” And this estimate: over 4 million Syrian children are not in school thanks to the war.

Syrian army solider. Image commons Wikimedia commons
Syrian army solider. Image commons Wikimedia commons

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Kahoot. Image source Wikimedia commons
Kahoot. Image source Wikimedia commons

Enter Edu4Syria, a $1.7 million competition, run jointly by Norway, the United States and a small group of non-governmental organizations, to tap into the widespread use of smartphones and keep displaced Syrians learning.

It’s a simple idea: use game-based learning to reach kids – displaced inside Syria or refugees – whose education has stalled.

“We went to Gaziantep in Turkey near the border with Syria and spoke to lots of Syrian families about this project,” says Dr. Afl Inge Wang, who is leading the competition. “In one home we visited, the entire family lived in one room and the youngest daughter, aged about 12, had never learned to read. But she often played games on her older brother’s smartphone,” added Wang, a professor in game based learning at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who co-invented the game platform Kahoot! 
Talking to war-affected children. Image source Wikimedia commons
Talking to war-affected children. Image source: Wikimedia commons

“Almost all Syrian households tend to own Smartphones,” said Børge Brende, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs in an email to reporter Wang.

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“We want to take advantage of this to make available engaging and motivational literacy learning games.”

War trauma can make learning more difficult, negatively affecting memory, concentration and other more nuanced cognitive stumbling blocks. So how does a smartphone game make a difference?

“Game-based learning can be an effective format,” said Liv Marte Kristiansen Nordhaug, senior adviser for the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, which supports the competition.

The sounds and animation in a digital game stimulate the brain, Nordhaug said. “The ability to adapt the challenges to the learner’s level” is another factor, along with “the ability to engage and motivate…through immersive narrative and fun gameplay.”

In December, two winners out of five current finalists will be chosen. The apps, all in Arabic, will work on both Apple and Android Smartphones.

“We need to scale up existing efforts that we know already work—like expanding the constellation of non-formal education centers or providing stipends to Syrian teachers who can help fill the enormous demand for trained and talented instructors,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken during remarks made at Standford University earlier this year.

“And we continue to need game-changing new ideas—like classrooms on wheels or extra lessons on podcast or virtual schools.”

Wang is looking for apps that kids can connect with. And he warned developers not to underestimate their smarts.

“Kids will quickly detect it if standard learning approaches are dressed up as games. It’s like feeding them chocolate covered broccoli. So we want real games, with great game mechanics and narratives, that can help the children learn how to read and provide some psycho-social support.”

-by Vrushali Mahajan, (with inputs from VOA), intern at NewsGram. Twitter @Vrushali Mahajan 

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  • devika todi

    such an initiative should always be encouraged.

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Focus on Your Child’s Mental Health Amid COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19: Your child's mental health during self-isolation

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child emotional crisis
Self isolation can have a negative impact on your child's mental health amid the coronavirus crisis. Pixabay

Children and young adults account for 42 percent of the worlds population; this age group is very susceptible to entering into an emotional crisis while the world is busy containing the pandemic.

Children perceive changes in their surroundings as early as they come into this world. It is almost impossible to keep them in the dark about the pandemic, and also inadvisable.

It’s important to focus on our littlest and youngest members of society. Meghna Yadav, Head, Training and Development, KLAY Preschools and Daycare shares tips on how you can make kids and teenagers more aware.

child emotional crisis
Children and young adults account for 42 percent of the worlds population; this age group is very susceptible to entering into an emotional crisis while the world is busy containing the pandemic. Pixabay

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Provide age-appropriate information

It is not advisable to share all possible data and reports about the pandemic with children, but not sharing any information is not a wise decision either. So, the very first measure that adults need to follow is to provide age appropriate information to them. Providing facts to avoid confusion/misconceptions and explaining safety measures taken by family will help children stay focused on their contribution in fighting this virus.

‘Act like a soldier’

Children might feel helpless and anxious about the lockdown and the changes in routine. The best way to keep the positivity high in children is to provide them the feeling of being little soldiers fighting a battle, rather than the ones who are under threat. “To beat the virus, we need to stay indoors” is a better explanation of social distancing than to say, “We cannot go out.”

Social distancing does not mean social isolation

Socialising is the key for happiness of children and children may be feeling disconnected with their friends and peers while maintaining social distancing. As adults, we have to keep children socially connected with wise use of technology. Video call with friends and extended family members is a wonderful solution for maintaining human connection in the time of social distancing.

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Share the load

Parents are found to be under constant stress of not only protecting the family against the pandemic but also maintaining a work life balance in the crisis. Working for professional commitments amidst family chores is not easy to sustain for long durations. Sharing the load of household work is a win-win situation in this scenario. Asking children to help in daily chores like cleaning, washing, or mopping will not only reduce your burden but will also keep children busy and physically active while staying indoors.

child emotional crisis
It is important to take care of your child’s mental health to save them from emotional crisis and trauma. Pixabay

Know the 3 Rs

The mantra of Three Rs is found to be of great help for parents to maintain emotional stability of children in crisis.

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The three Rs include :

  • Reassurance
  • Routine
  • Regulation

Reassure: Provide age appropriate information and reassure them about their safety. Talk about ways to stay safe and keep expressing that you are there for them.

Routine: Routine gives predictability to children and this ultimately leads to a sense of control about the situation. Children might have a different routine than usual but providing a new routine through time zones like activity time, screen time, family board game time, cooking time helps in reducing their anxiety.

Also Read- Using Oats to Achieve Perfect Skin Goals

Regulate: Parents need to regulate their own emotions to teach children self-efficacy in tough times. Children keenly observe and absorb the way parents respond to changing landscapes. So, parents need to be role models for children by staying strong and calm in turmoil.

It is natural to have higher degrees of fear and anxiety during these uncertain times, but what matters most is to recognise what we can do and be grateful for what we have. Stay connected and maintain your social network while maintaining social distancing. (IANS)