Innovation and creativity in education for refugees:UNHCR Ghana wins Team award for achievements in innovation

By Patience Folley | 31 October 2018
Innovation and creativity in education for refugees:UNHCR Ghana wins Team award for achievements in innovation

It is generally believed that good education has the power to change lives, empower people and create opportunities.  Equally, a lack of education can dis-empower those who need the opportunity the most and can lead to extreme poverty spanning generations.

When a humanitarian crisis leads to a subsequent refugee crisis in most cases, there is massive disruption to children’s education and the likelihood of disadvantage multiplies. For refugees, education is not only a fundamental right; it is one of the most valuable assets to have. There is therefore need to find ways to increase their access to education and jobs so that they can better support themselves. Ensuring Persons of Concern have adequate access to services such as primary, secondary/tertiary education or vocational training throughout their period of displacement contributes to finding solutions in the long-term and better equips them for their eventual return home if they so choose.

It is for this reason that UNHCR Ghana and Partners are working passionately in the area of education by adopting innovative and creative ways to ensure Persons of Concern are able to get themselves back on their feet. This the Representation has done through several projects at the refugee camps in Ghana.

ICT Center with free Wi-Fi for refugees and host community members in Ampain

With access to free and reliable internet, the opportunities for self-development are limitless. In 2017, UNHCR in partnership with Intelsat built an ICT Center (Smart Wi-Fi Kiosk) in the Ampain Camp which hosts the largest refugee population in Ghana. The center, equipped with laptops, desktops and tablets, aims at serving both the refugee community and members of the host community. The following are impressions by some beneficiaries of the ICT center:

For 45 year old Ivorian refugee, Hama Virginie, it is never late to learn. Previously a banker in Cote D’Ivoire, she is taking advantage of the facility to access the online learning platform ‘Coursera’ where she has already completed several courses and acquired certificates. “I have plans of becoming an entrepreneur so I have been focusing on trainings in the area of business development and how to manage a business. Hopefully when I’m done, I’ll be able to use the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to achieve my dream. I wouldn’t know how life in the camp would have been like without this ICT Center” she said with glee.

David Kohen, 31, is a Person of Concern (POC) in the camp. According to him the center is a platform for education, social interaction and entertainment. As a graphic designer, he says he has already completed over 30 courses via the ‘Coursera’ online learning platform including courses such as English, programming and html. He says the center has given him the opportunity to enlist as a translator with ‘Translators without Borders’. He is also registered as a UN online volunteer where he is able to make his services available to people in every part of the world. He says life in the camp would have been extremely difficult without the ICT Center.

Toni Gnonso, 28 enjoys connecting with his family and friends in Cote d’Ivoire and other parts of the world. He is also able to monitor news from his country which updates him on issues at the click of a button in the camp. Toni currently works as a mason. He says on days when there is no work available, the ICT center is a safe haven for him. “Life in the camp would have been very boring if we didn’t have this ICT center” says Toni.

An ICT Center for Fetentaa Camp is currently under construction and (if donor support is received for internet connection) it is expected that the lives of more refugees and host community members will be positively impacted by the project

Teach To Reach Remote Classrooms project

A major challenge in the camp schools had been the limited number of textbooks and lack of the use of modern methods of teaching, that is, making teaching and learning fun, activity based and child-centered. This affected the pace at which children were expected to grasp lessons causing some to lose interest in school. In an effort to address this, UNHCR Ghana partnered a British not-for-profit organization, the Varkey Foundation, to introduce the Teach To Reach Remote Classroom project. This is an innovative project which targets students in schools in remote areas. Piloted in 2017, the project which is in its second phase has now been extended to Egyeikrom refugee camp. About 370 pupils (made up of refugee and host community children) mainly from primary three to primary six are beneficiaries.

Experienced trainers at studios in Accra broadcast lessons to technologically-enabled classrooms in the camps which allows students to speak with studio teachers and ask questions which are answered in real time. As an interactive and distance learning module, this method helps improve the educational experience of refugee children and gives them foundational skills in English and mathematics. Feedback from most teachers, both in Egyeikrom and Ampain Camps as well as academic records show improvement in the academic performance of the children. Teachers say the children have demonstrated understanding through their responses to questions posed by teachers from the lessons. The teachers also indicated that using the Varkey Foundation’s strategies in their teaching such as starter activities, pair work, group work, peer learning and no corporal punishment during lessons has helped a great deal.

There are also after school life skill sessions for both girls and boys known as ‘Wonder Women’ and ‘Boys Boys’ clubs respectively which teaches the pupils about personal hygiene and teenage pregnancy amongst others. This is also proving very helpful for both boys and girls.

Osman Esoun Assana has been teaching in the Ampain Camp School for the past 3 years. She’s one of the facilitators for the online classes who coordinates with the online teachers and monitors the work of the children both during and after the online classroom sessions. She says attendance rates for pupils in her class have improved as the children are very excited about the method of teaching. As children from other schools are also connected at the same time, the lessons tend to be more interactive and active. Children are also doing better in terms of reading and pronunciation she indicated.

“I enjoy coming to school because they use ICT to teach us and we see the teachers on the video. I like the class”- Kan Moise a class 6 pupil.

E-reader project with Worldreader

UNHCR partnered Worldreader, an American based non-profit organization that provides people in the developing world with free access to a library of digital books via e-readers with pre-installed storybooks and textbooks selected by schools. This is in an effort to help children learn how to read, use those reading skills to enhance their performance in school and generally help children develop a love for reading. The Worldreader project was started in Egyeikrom and Krisan camps. Since the introduction of the projects, there have been significant improvement in the academic performance of children. According to the Ghana Education Service circuit supervisor for Ayensudo, Mr. Gibson Ofori-Owusu, the performance of the children in the Egyeikrom Camp School has significantly improved. He says the school has become one of the top schools in the municipality and more host community members are enrolling their wards in the camp school because of their performance.

UNHCR Representation in Ghana has been adjudged winners of the 2017 UNHCR Team Award for Achievements in Innovation. The Team in Ghana has made significant advances in providing access to education and gr eater connectivity for refugees and host communities. The citation reads “the team brought technology to the classroom and overcame challenges related to age and language barriers between refugee and host communities. With the establishment of an ICT Centre, the team and its partners demonstrated the critical role of education in the protection of refugees and the link between small-scale but sustainable investment with increased school enrollment, as well as the relationship between education, employment and livelihood opportunities”.

Ghana is currently hosting about 13,000 refugees and asylum seekers with approximately 50% of them living in 4 refugee camps in the Western, Central and Brong Ahafo Regions of Ghana