The role of ICTs in rebuilding education in areas of armed conflict: The Syrian case

2019 edition

Mirey Alfarah

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011, more than 45% of the population has been forced into displacement, of which almost half are children. For a large part of the Syrian population, access to education has been interrupted. Statistics show that almost three million Syrian children have not had access to any type of education for more than four years.

The main objective of this research is to identify the opportunities and uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to guarantee access to formal and non-formal education to Syrian children affected by the armed conflict.

In order to achieve the objective of the research, three case studies have been selected and studied. The first case NAFHAM (www.nafham.com) which is the first free, online platform of educational video content based on the official curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in the Arab world; the second one is JUSOOR (www.jusoorsyria.com) which is an NGO created by a group of Syrian expatriates and designed especially to support Syrian youth and refugees; the third case is UNICEF (www.unicef.org/emergencies/syria/) that operates inside and outside Syria, collaborating with the Syrian government, with the governments of neighboring host countries and with other partners in order to deliver essential services, including education to the Syrian population affected by the conflict.
In order to collect the data, two qualitative research techniques were used: 1. semi-structured in-depth interview and 2. Online and in situ observation. The fieldwork was developed in Lebanon during the school year 2012-2013 and 2017-2018.

From the analysis of the data, it has been confirmed that ICTs can facilitate and guarantee access to education for Syrian children in different ways, both in person and remotely. As, for example, for language learning, to improve collaborative work in groups, to strengthen relations between refugee children and infants of host societies.
Also, it has been noticed that ICTs improve and speed up the communication between the academic staff, the administration of the educational institution and the parents of the children. In the same way, and in emergency situations, ICTs are the most effective tool for sharing information on the safety of children.

From what has been presented, it can be concluded and affirmed that ICTs are being used extensively by key agents in case studies, not only for pedagogical purposes or in the teaching-learning process, but also for communicative and coordination purposes. They are also being used for the dissemination of relevant information on education and the crisis of education in Syria, and for the collection and management of data.

In conclusion, the findings can offer a pathway to find more stable solutions, but certainly, research is still needed to uncover all the possibilities offered by ICTs to support education in crisis contexts such as the Syrian.