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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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    such an initiative should always be encouraged.

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Women Anxious Before IVF May Face Serious Mental Disorders if the Treatment Fails: Report

Dr. Aswati Nair, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, Delhi sheds light on how depression and anxiety can affect IVF

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IVF or any fertility treatment can cause anxiety in a childless couple. Pixabay

Getting bouts of anxiety while going through In-vitro fertilization (IVF) or any other fertility treatment is common for any childless couple. Dr. Aswati Nair, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, Delhi sheds light on how depression and anxiety can affect IVF.

But it’s pivotal that the stress should be managed initially, if it is ignored it can take an emotional toll on women’s mental health. Firstly, opting to for IVF is a life-altering decision by a couple. Though it brings with it a renewed sense of hope and purpose, the experience can be an intense for everyone involved.

According to a latest report published in the ‘Fertility and Sterility Journal’, women who are stressed and anxious before IVF can face serious mental disorders if the treatment fails. The journal further added women should not feel pressured to be a “good IVF patient” who’s free of stress. And, they should not blame themselves if they feel stressed out and their IVF attempt fails. The doctors should facilitate psychological intervention, if need be to help women feel better, and not focus entirely on just increasing their chances of pregnancy.

embryo IVF
Women should not feel pressured to be a “good IVF patient” who’s free of stress. Pixabay

Relation between depression and infertility

It is still unclear whether depression itself can cause infertility but there are some studies available which found a correlation between depression and increased rates of infertility. Some suggests that an overlap in some of the hormonal issues are involved in both conditions. Moreover, depression disrupts your daily routine and lifestyle that adversely impact the fertility. For example, depression often causes an over reaction or lack of appetite,resulting in being overweight or underweight. All these increase the chances of infertility. Besides, sometimes depressed people get addicted to smoke or liquor to get rid of their negative thoughts, resulting in infertility issues.

Can pregnancy Cure Depression?

It has been witnessed that people, who have experiences infertility failures in the past, are more prone to depression during pregnancy and also have an increased chance of getting postpartum depression. A woman or a couple needs to understand that not being able to conceive or failing to become a parent through means like surrogacy or adoption,isn’t the end o the world. It is possible to find hope and happiness again if we just shift our focus on something else for some time. If depression has taken hold, it’s unlikely to resolve on its own. Depression due to a miscarriage or failed IVF treatment is tough to overcome. Researchers have found that it can stay up to three years irrespective of if you’re pregnant or not. Therefore, counseling is pivotal throughout the grieving process so that one can overcome this dark phase and start afresh with new hopes and outlook.

pregnant IVF
Researchers have found that depression can stay up to three years irrespective of if you’re pregnant or not. Pixabay

Also Read: Above 51% Women Believe Indian Schools Don’t Have Menstrual Awareness Programme: Survey

Feeling better is the Key

Some couples feel antidepressants which are used for treatment have a negative effect on health as they cause hindrance when trying to conceive again. While once cannot completely rule this thought process out.

In fact, some studies have found that treating depression with counseling and anti-depressants together increased pregnancy success. That said, for milder depression, anti-depressant medications are just one of many treatment options. Depression can also be treated with psychological counselling, support groups, and mind-body therapies. (IANS)

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Above 51% Women Believe Indian Schools Don’t Have Menstrual Awareness Programme: Survey

Approximately 60 percent women believe that Indian schools do not have adequate facilities for girls to dispose off sanitary napkins

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"Without the right information, girls often don't know how to safely manage their period.", Manushi was quoted saying. Pixabay

More than 51 percent of women respondents say that Indian schools do not have a proper system to prepare teen and adolescent girls regarding the onset of menstrual periods. Nearly 60 percent women feel schools lack adequate facilities for girls to change and dispose of sanitary pads off, says a survey.

Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 falling , and feminine hygiene brand Everteen had conducted the fifth edition of its annual Menstrual Hygiene Survey.

The survey was conducted among nearly 7000 Indian women participating from various cities of India including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.

Over 51 percent women respondents claimed that Indian schools do not have adequate systems to educate or mentally prepare teen and adolescent girls regarding the onset of menstrual periods. More than 95 percent women asserted that Indian school system should have some awareness programs to prepare girls on the subject. The survey also revealed that during adolescence, nearly 60 percent women did not have any prior knowledge about menstrual periods. In fact, as many as 38 percent women had first misinterpreted it as an injury or disease.

critical-days-Menstrual
Nearly 60 percent women did not have any prior knowledge about menstrual periods. Pixabay

In terms of infrastructure, almost 59 percent women felt that schools do not have adequate cleanliness of public toilets or facilities for girls to change and dispose sanitary pads off.

Chirag Pan, CEO, PAN Healthcare, says, “Menstrual hygiene and wellness have been known issues in the Indian context. While there has been progress in recent years, it is imperative that we leverage our strength in the Indian value-based systems and inculcate the importance of good menstrual hygiene from the onset of puberty itself. Schools can and must play a pivotal role in bringing this paradigm shift through classroom education, awareness programs and focused infrastructure development.”

In workspaces too, 41 percent women felt their office needed better cleanliness and facilities to change and dispose sanitary pads off in toilets.

The survey also suggests that the role that doctors can play in preventing gynecological problems is significantly downplayed due to the shame and guilt associated with menstrual cycles in Indian context. More than 50 percent women said they have had some gynecological infection or problem such as UTI, rashes, foul smell or itching during or after menstrual cycle in the past one year. Among these, 20 percent of women had such issues more than 3 times during the year. More than 64 percent women have faced irregularities in their period dates, out of which half have had to deal with it more than 3 times in a year. Ironically, only 37 percent of women said they consult a doctor in case or irregular periods, whereas 32 percent prefer to discuss it within the family and 30 percent just ignore it. Similarly, more than 54 percent women have had white discharge, but only 25 percent prefer to consult a doctor.

As many as 56 percent women believe that menstruation is still perceived as a taboo in Indian society. Not surprisingly, then, more than 42 percent of women felt uncomfortable buying sanitary essentials from a shop or a chemist, especially when there were several other customers. Because of the guilt associated with menstrual cycle, 87 percent women admitted that they had to hide or secretly take their sanitary product for changing. Interestingly, more than three-fourth of the respondents said that menstruation would not have been such a taboo subject in the society if men had it too!

Menstrual cup
87 percent women admitted that they had to hide or secretly take their sanitary product for changing. Pixabay

Also Read: Imperative For Heart failure Patients To Be Health Literate: Study

Another key revelation from the survey shows that 53 percent women have used a public toilet more than 3 times at an office, mall or cinema hall to change sanitary product. Hariom Tyagi, CEO, Wet and Dry Personal Care,says, “Our survey shows that 75 percent women feel uncomfortable having to use public toilets to change sanitary products. Yet, more than 93 percent women still use sanitary napkins. By switching to better, modern-age menstrual hygiene methods (MHM) such as menstrual cups, women can reduce the number of times they have to change their sanitary product in a day. Many women have told us that using menstrual cups has greatly reduced their daily discomfort due to periods.” The survey revealed that menstrual cups are now being used by 4 percent of the women, and their adoption has overtaken tampons by almost double.

One of the alarming trends that emerged from the survey shows that more than one-third women said they have used a pill or some other method to delay periods in case of an important occasion. (IANS)

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The Forgotten Indo-China War

The 1967 India and China faced off in the heights of Cho La and Nathu La at the Sikkim border. This time, overcoming the odds, India triumphed

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Know more about the 1967, Indo-China war when India triumphed. Pixabay

The only India-China conflict that remains etched in our collective memory is the 1962 war, which India tragically lost. But five years later, in 1967, India and China faced off once again in the heights of Cho La and Nathu La at the Sikkim border. This time, overcoming the odds, India triumphed.

The fallout of these forgotten battles was immense. China shied away from actively allying with Pakistan and the US during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. And despite several stand-offs in the past half a century, Beijing has never again launched a military offensive against India.

The book ‘Watershed 1967: India’s Forgotten War with China’, written by Probal Dasgupta, an ex-Indian Army officer who served in the Gorkha Regiment for several years, tells us why these battles ushered in an era of peace. It is based on extensive research and interviews with army officers and soldiers who participated in these historic battles. Here are some excerpts from the book:

The Tipping Point: A Tale of Spies and a Breach at the Watershed

For twenty-six-year-old Krishnan Raghunath, Peking was a window to discover China. As a teenager growing up in India, Raghunath had lived through the heady days of the 1950s when slogans of ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’ rent the air. In his early youth in the 1960s the war ended all bonhomie between the two countries. So, as a young foreign service officer, a posting as the second secretary at the Indian embassy in Peking in 1965 was an opportunity to better understand China. At the embassy he was heading the Information Services of India (ISI). Among ISI’s challenges was to cope with the restrictions on exchange of information that the communist government posed for them in China.

Battle
In 1967, India and China faced off in the heights of Cho La and Nathu La at the Sikkim border. Pixabay

June was the beginning of the summer season in Peking. Midsummer rains would pelt the city every time the temperatures rose. June 4, 1967 began as any other regular day for Raghunath. At the hour past midday, he settled into his car along with his colleague P. Vijai and set off towards the Western Hills to visit the temple of the Sleeping Buddha. Along the way, a curious Raghunath noticed the decrepit remains of another temple and stopped the car. He fished out his camera and began to take pictures of it. As he looked through the aperture of his camera to take more shots, he felt a light tap on his shoulder.

A bystander asked him why he was taking pictures in a sensitive military zone where photography was prohibited. Before Raghunath could realize what was happening, the two Indian diplomats were surrounded by soldiers of the PLA. A harried Raghunath tried to reason with the people around him that he did not mean to take photographs for any spying purposes and that he was only interested in the ruins of the temple. The Chinese, however, believed that Raghunath was using the pretext of the temple nearby to click pictures in a prohibited military zone. Upon inspection, their identity cards as embassy staffers were confiscated. The two were whisked into a vehicle and taken away. That evening, news broke about the unprecedented arrest of two Indian diplomats by Chinese authorities.

The Indian embassy immediately swung into action. The diplomats had been accused by China of spying. Denials followed and clarifications were issued that they had not indulged in any espionage activities. But China maintained that Raghunath and Vijai were taking illicit pictures in a sensitive area that had a prohibited military facility close by. The Ministry of Foreign Aff airs in Peking alleged that the diplomats had been trying to create a topographical map of a ‘prohibited area’. According to the Chinese, ‘Upon discovering them, soldiers of the Chinese PLA guarding the area immediately urged them to desist and asked them to leave. K. Raghunath and P. Vijai, however, paid no heed whatsoever and continued to hang around and take photographs of the prohibited area stealthily.’ The Chinese government withdrew Krishnan Raghunath’s diplomatic status and declared Vijai a persona non grata.

Over a week later, on June 13, about 15,000 people gathered at the Peking Municipal People’s Higher Court for the trial of the two Indian diplomats accused of spying on China. Raghunath and Vijai were ‘tried’ and found guilty of espionage. Raghunath was sentenced to ‘immediate deportation’ by the court and told to leave the country forthwith, while Vijai was given three days to leave China. However, despite the different orders, they were brought to the airport at Peking the following morning where an irate mob awaited them. Red Guards kicked and punched the Indian diplomats. A cordon of members of the Indian embassy staff who tried to protect them were also assaulted. Raghunath was forced to walk through a jeering mob of Red Guards, who jostled, kicked and spat on him. Vijai was dragged with his head shoved down, his shoes tearing off in the melee. The humiliation of the two diplomats was meant to send a loud message to India: beware.

In Delhi, the news gave rise to shock and anger and was received with angry protests from political parties. The Indian government believed that the Chinese government had violated international norms by making a film on the confessions of two Indian diplomats for use as propaganda against Indian espionage in China. The Jana Sangh, which was trying to cultivate a muscular Hindu Indian identity, seized the opportunity to try to press the government into a corner. China had thrown down the gauntlet to India’s young prime minister who had built up an early reputation for a certain kind of decisiveness that swung between foolhardiness and brilliant audacity. Indira Gandhi would respond soon.

War
The fallout of this forgotten war was immense. Pixabay

In response to the Chinese belligerence, Chen LuChih, the first secretary of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, was accused of gathering vital intelligence from India and carrying on subversive activities on Indian soil. Chen was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and ordered to register under the Foreigners’ Registration Act.

Unlike China, India didn’t bother with a trial. The next day, on June 14, the external affairs ministry ordered his immediate deportation to China. The government now turned towards Hsieh Cheng-Hao, who was the third secretary of the embassy, and accused him of subversive activities too. He was promptly declared persona non grata and ordered to leave India within seventy-two hours. The Indian government had responded with alacrity and unusual boldness, showing the heart to return China’s compliment. By now public emotions were riled up. The very next day after the deportation order, crowds gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Delhi, demonstrating vociferously as political parties pounced on the opportunity, instigating mobs to break into the embassy compound and go on a rampage. The mob smashed windows, set fire to a garage, tore down the Chinese flag and assaulted members of the embassy staff. That day seven members of the embassy staff, including Chen Lu-Chih and Hsieh Cheng-Hao, had to be taken to hospital.

The attack on the Chinese embassy set off alarms in Peking. Taking serious note of the violence in Delhi, the Chinese government sent a notice to Ram Sathe, the Indian charge d’affaires in Peking, that the Indian embassy staff’s safety could no longer be guaranteed. Protesters soon gathered outside Sathe’s residence, tearing down the windows of his house, sending the occupants scurrying for safety. The Indian embassy was also under siege with sixty-three men, women and children holed up inside. The hostility on both sides had crossed diplomatic lines. The danger to the lives of the diplomats on both sides was beginning to raise international concern. The likelihood of another war loomed dangerously close.

In Peking, Western diplomats rushed to intervene and decided to deliver food to the persons trapped inside the Indian embassy. But the Western food convoy was turned back by the Red Guards and the police.

India sent a note that unless the siege was lifted ‘appropriate counter measures’ would be adopted. Armed sentries arrived at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi the following day with specific instructions for the Chinese diplomats: the occupants were ordered not to leave the building. India was not about to back off, even if it meant that the embassy staff in both countries ended up being detained as prisoners.

Looking for a possible detente, the Chinese foreign ministry suggested sending an aircraft to Delhi to bring back their diplomats injured in the attack in Delhi. The Indian government responded with a similar request for its diplomats holed up in Peking. China, however, turned down their request. But they didn’t seem to anticipate that India was in no mood to capitulate. The following day, as a Chinese aircraft touched down in Delhi to take back the diplomats, the government in Delhi refused to provide refuelling facilities for the aircraft. Finally, after assurances, an injured Hsieh Cheng-Hao was allowed to leave Delhi on June 21. Chen Lu-Chih was kept under detention and deported three days later.

The demonstrations outside the Indian embassy in Peking, somewhat staged, were called off soon after. Sathe was told that the embassy staff were free to leave the compound and return to their flats. The Indians responded with a reciprocal gesture and withdrew their sentries at the Chinese embassy. The staff could now step out of the embassy in Delhi, though their personal safety remained unguaranteed.

India had matched China for every stride and even outwitted the adversary on occasions. After having mirrored each other’s unyielding and harsh steps, peace overtures from both sides also started to mimic each other. An uneasy truce was established and the ugly diplomatic fracas didn’t blow up into a military crisis. Th e bickering, though, resumed when the Chinese embassy accused Indian customs of seizing literature that contained Mao Zedong’s works. The Indian government, their note complained, was preventing the Chinese staff from their right to study Mao’s thought. To the Chinese, this was the larger conspiracy of capitalism at play.

The rivalry between India and China had begun to worry the West. The diplomatic stand-off had attracted international attention and shortly manifested itself on the border. As if on cue, attention turned to the tiny Himalayan outpost of Nathu La.

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Since 1965 the Chinese had been attempting to dominate the border by various means. They used to make regular broadcasts from loudspeakers at Nathu La, pointing out to Indian troops the pathetic conditions in which they lived, their low salaries and lack of amenities, comparing them to those enjoyed by Chinese officers. Sagat had loudspeakers installed on the Indian side and played similar messages in Chinese every day. Throughout 1966 and early 1967, Chinese propaganda, intimidation and attempted incursions into the Indian territory continued. As mentioned earlier, the border was not marked and there were several vantage points on the watershed which both sides thought belonged to them. Patrols which walked along the border often clashed, resulting in tension, and sometimes even casualties. (IANS)