By Patience Folley and Charlotte Berquin | 16 May 2019
For people forced to flee, providing access for formal and non-formal education is crucial. E-learning opportunities for non-traditional learners has proved to be a powerful tool for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to support resilient refugees in their respective journeys, starting their new lives. Internet access is also one of the avenues that effectively provide refugees with opportunities for development, empowerment and protection.
In Ampain Refugee Camp, home to more than 3,000 Ivorian refugees, an innovative partnership between UNHCR and the communication company, Intelsat, has brought something unique to the camp: a Wi-Fi kiosk where refugees can freely access internet
The low maintenance, solar-powered VSAT-connected Wi-Fi facility has been warmly welcomed by the refugees in the camp, as it paved the way to easily accessing online courses, free of charge, via the coursera for refugees partnership. Thanks to coursera, refugees can follow online courses from renowned universities and receive a recognized certificate from the teaching institutions. An opportunity for them to gain new skills and competencies that can increase their ability to work and integrate within the communities beyond the camp.
The refugees themselves have organized how the kiosk operates. “We have set up a schedule and priority groups” says Moussa, the Kiosk Manager and a trained technician in hardware and network maintenance who fled Cote d’Ivoire in 2011. “We give priority to those following online courses and we provide digital literacy classes, especially to mothers who are normally occupied during the day” he noted.
Natacha Gohourou, 28 years, is one of 89 refugees who have successfully completed online courses this year. “Refugees in this camp were not expecting such an opportunity. This facility has been beneficial to us. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I’ll be able to go through and complete this. I did not spend any money but I got a certificate” she said amidst broad smiles, while showing her certificate in Project Planning. “It’s a nice day for me because I received something out of nothing” she added.
Sibi Jean Marie, 42 years old, is one of many Ivoirians who fled their country to seek refuge in Ghana. Together with other refugees in the camp, he is currently producing soap and selling them at the local market. They formed the Shalom Soap Makers Association. He took the opportunity of the ICT Center to study a course in Customer Analytics. He says the course is benefitting him greatly in his work.
Since 2016, more than 200 certificates were issued for refugee learners in Ampain: proof that, despite difficult conditions, refugees in the camp are eager to learn.
A refugee artist in the Camp, Rodrigue Couecou Dogo, used his artistic skills to communicate the importance of education especially for refugees. His paintings which were presented to UNHCR’s Regional Education Officer, Ms Charlotte Berquin will adorn the ICT Center.