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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
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  • 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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Is surgical strike the ultimate answer to Pakistan fueled terrorism?

The new policy has sent a clear indication to Pakistan that the Indian government was not averse to precision attacks similar to last year’s cross-border strike on militants in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

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In the new military doctrine, India has kept the options open for surgical strikes in response to “terror provocations.”
In the new military doctrine, India has kept the options open for surgical strikes in response to “terror provocations.” Wikimedia Commons
  • The attacks on Indian military bases in Sunjwan, Uri and Pathankot are not routine militancy
  • Like every time, this time also Pakistan denied its hand in the audacious terror attack on the Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan area
  • A surgical strike can be carried out by sending Special Forces into enemy territory through various channels

On 10 February 2018, the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists barged into the camp of the 36 brigade of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and started firing indiscriminately. The terrorists managed to sneak into the camp from the rear end of the base after a brief exchange of fire with the sentry guarding the periphery. The Sunjwan attack resulted in the death of five Army men, including two junior commissioned officers (JCOs), and the father of a soldier.

The attacks on Indian military bases in Sunjwan, Uri and Pathankot are not routine militancy. They replicate the acts of war. Without reacting in a knee-jerk manner to the terror attack, the Indian Army will come up with a befitting reply, the like of one which army gave after Uri attack.

Also Read: Gurdaspur Attack: Is India well equipped to deal with terror?

Although, intelligence agencies had informed of some kind strike on an Army or security establishment by Jaish-e-Mohammed. The threat was issued in view of the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged on 9 February 2013, for the 2001 attack on Parliament House.

Like every time, this time also Pakistan denied its hand in the audacious terror attack on the Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan area. On top of that, Pakistan showed the audacity to warn India against conducting cross-border strikes.

Surgical Strike could be achieved by air raids, airdropping special ops teams or a ground operation.
Surgical Strike could be achieved by air raids, airdropping special ops teams or a ground operation. Wikimedia Commons

In the new military doctrine, India has kept the options open for surgical strikes in response to any “terror provocations.” This sends the clear indication to Pakistan that the Indian government was not averse to precision attacks similar to last year’s cross-border strike on militants in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Now the question arises, as to why Pakistan was taken on the backfoot after Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman condemned the attack and vowed to take revenge on the part of fallen heroes of Indian Army.

What is a Surgical Strike?

A surgical strike is meticulously devised swift and calculated strike on the specific target with an aim to neutralize the intended lot while ensuring minimum collateral damage to the surrounding areas. Such neutralization of the targets cut down the possibility of a full-blown war. Surgical strikes are part of India’s response to the ‘Cold War’ strategy followed by Pakistan and has already proved effective in foiling a new infiltration bid by terrorist groups across the LoC (Line of Control).

Also Read: US: Terrorist attack at Pathankot ‘heinous’

How is a Surgical Strike carried out?

A surgical strike can be carried out by sending Special Forces into enemy territory through various channels. It could be achieved by air raids, airdropping special ops teams or a ground operation. All three Indian armed forces, Army, Air Force and Navy have their separate special ops teams. The details operation like surgical strikes is understandably never been revealed by the Indian authorities. External intelligence like Military intelligence, Intelligence Bureau and R&AW are quite vital in carrying out these attacks and these special operation teams work closely with them.

Surgical Strike fulfils the need of a shot in the arm for enemies without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation.
Surgical Strike fulfils the need of a shot in the arm for enemies without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation. Wikimedia Commons

India’s Special Forces carried out surgical strikes against militant camps in Myanmar in June 2015, leaving 38 Naga insurgents dead and on similar lines, a surgical strike on Pakistan’s terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) was carried out. Both the operations had the backing of the central government and India’s muscular response was announced to the world.

Pakistan, however, rubbished India’s claim as a “figment of imagination”.

What is the need for Surgical Strike?

The surgical strike is said to be the best form of attack is political theatre. It fulfils the need of a shot in the arm for enemies without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation.

During the surgical strike on Pakistan, army picked their target well too and struck when the terrorists and Pakistan Army was caught virtually with their pants down. There was nothing wrong with the response which India gave to Pakistan, as the Indian Army struck in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), which rightfully belongs to India and whose freedom is something that India has a direct stake in. n no manner, that part belongs to Pakistan.

Also Read: India Avenges Uri Attack: Indian Army conducts surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan

Again, in a brilliant move, the army chose to target the terrorists who were being pushed into India by Pakistan from the terror launch pads. The international community also stayed united on the offensive surgical strike by Indian Army.

The global community condemns the terror in any form and India hit the terrorist in that manner only. During the crossfire at that time, two Pakistani soldiers were killed as they sought to defend the terrorists. It is no two ways theory that Pakistan army fuel full supports to various dreaded organizations and later pump them into India, in the name of ‘Jihad.’

Surgical strike humiliated Pakistan beyond imagination. It showed them up for their coward acts that they prefer to strike on sleeping people. Although, Pakistan came up with a full denial that any such surgical strike by Indian Army as claimed by India never happened. But it was the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif who admitted the Strike, which was again refuted by Pakistani Army.

During the surgical strike, army picked their target well too and struck when the terrorists and Pakistan Army was caught virtually with their pants down.
During the surgical strike, army picked their target well too and struck when the terrorists and Pakistan Army was caught virtually with their pants down. Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

If this is the only language that Pakistan wants to talk, the Indian government and armed forces will take no lying down and every miss-adventure from any foreign organization will be dealt with the same fury. Since long, Pakistan has been testing India’s patience level on the doctrine of ‘Cold War’ strategy and now it’s high time that India should make them learn for their intended misjudgements.

Also Read: Pakistan asks India for more evidence regarding 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks

Whether a knife falls on a melon or a melon falls on the knife, it is always the melon that gets cut. In the proxy war waged by Pakistan, it is always the innocent people who have always been the worst sufferers.