INNOVATION TO MITIGATE EDUCATIONAL FALL-OUT AFTER A DECADE OF CONFLICT IN SYRIA

A decade into the Syrian Civil War, a humanitarian crisis continues to beleaguer Syrians and refugee host countries. Tenuous infrastructures and economies are buckling farther under the pressure of pandemic shutdowns. The educational brand SAT-7 ACADEMY adapts, mobilising cutting-edge instructional models to support children.

Half of Syria’s population has fled. Those who remain face a schooling crisis.

At least 4,200 schools in Syria have been damaged, destroyed, militarised, or used as shelters by internally displaced people.[1] One in three children in Syria were out of school by late 2019 – and in northern Syria, the pandemic recently pushed this number to two in three. Syrian refugee host countries, such as Lebanon, are also squeezed under the pressure to provide basic services, including education.

In direct response to these humanitarian catastrophes, SAT-7’s educational brand SAT-7 ACADEMY was launched in 2017 to help mitigate the conflict’s impact on vulnerable children whose schooling was interrupted. The program My School has faithfully provided regular instruction in maths, science, Arabic, English, and French, and children have grown up alongside the program’s foundational teaching. Student Akram says, “Mrs Grace is awesome. I benefit from her every day. In fact, my whole family watches her lessons. We love all the teachers very much.”

Now, My School is making a transformational leap from a traditional linear approach to a modular approach. The newest season, which will also be available to watch on the new video-on-demand service SAT-7 PLUS, will tackle content thematically in 10-minute episodes. This cutting-edge approach is more student-centered, enabling the most vulnerable children who have missed more school to take the maximum benefit.

On the set of My School

“The short-term goal is definitely to save whatever time can be saved in terms of learning acquisition. If we can save everybody a year, up to age nine or ten, we know that we have served a massive long-term goal when they go back to school. We have saved them the emotional impact of falling behind. We have saved them having to catch up. And we have saved them the very high possibility of dropping out,” shares Educational Consultant Roy Saab. Saab continues that while much of the Middle East and North Africa region is holding fast to the linear model, or rote learning, the modular approach has become critical during pandemic shutdowns.

Juliana Sfeir, SAT-7 ACADEMY Manager, says, “It will be a more holistic approach for learning and an ongoing one – something that will be with the children for a longer time. We strongly believe that online education has started, and it will not stop. This is the beginning of a new era, and it is not only due to the pandemic. Even beyond the pandemic, this is how things will change henceforth.”

Content Producer and My School teacher Grace Al-Najjar balances the nuances of teaching on-air with the flexibility of multi-modal learning. She explains, “The limitation of media is that the child has access to a person, not with a person, but it’s better than nothing.” In a multi-modal model like My School, audience members can contact teachers in real time during Facebook live episodes once a week, or by messaging at any time. At the onset of COVID-19, the SAT-7 ACADEMY team packaged the brand’s resources together so that parents, NGOs working in education, and others who found themselves on the frontlines as home-schoolers could find what they needed more easily.

Looking ahead to 2022, children must be equipped with special skills to forge functioning societies as they come of age. As a result, next year, My School’s curriculum will incorporate psychosocial topics, financial education, children’s rights, human rights, tolerance, resilience, and communication.

Refugee children in Lebanon watch My School together

Since its launch in 2017, SAT-7 ACADEMY has expanded to provide programming to meet other needs experienced by the most vulnerable children and families – including emotional and psychological. This support helps them, in turn, to be ready to learn. Now, SAT-7 is also launching Lebanon – Our Story, a project in which a diverse group of youth in Lebanon, including Syrian refugees, will work together to bridge societal divisions by developing positive new narratives. This project, which began in March 2021, is funded by the Danish Government and run in collaboration with the Danish Bible Society and the Center for Church-Based Development.

Syria today

In the Arab Spring of 2011, protestors voiced grievances against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The foreboding mantra echoed by Assad loyalists at the beginning of the conflict – “Assad or we burn the country”[2] – was a true indicator of the impending wreckage. Over 200,000 human casualties have occurred in the conflict. The fighting has diminished, but the fallout is far from over.

[1] UNICEF, No Lost Generation Initiative – One Year Report – Sept 2014. [http://childrenofsyria.info/2014/09/24/no-lost-generation-initiative-one-year-on/#report, accessed on 11 March 2021]

[2] Abdulrahim, R. 2019, March 6. ‘Assad or We Burn the Country’: How the Syrian Regime Prevailed. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/assad-or-we-burn-the-country-how-the-syrian-regime-prevailed-11551886374

 

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