M. Alfarah, M.A. Bosco Paniagua

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (SPAIN)
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria more than 45% of the population has been displaced, half of which are children. For a large fraction of the Syrian population the access to education has therefore been interrupted and recent statistics show that almost 3 million Syrian children have not had access to any education during more than four years. This has, in particular, a negative impact on their psychological stability, development and opportunities for the future and raises concerns about a “lost generation”. There are currently several governmental and non-governmental initiatives that provide access to education for Syrian children employing different strategies.

The presented research aims are twofold. Firstly, to survey ongoing projects that make use of Internet in rebuilding education for Syrians and, secondly, to offer recommendations for good practices on how governments and relevant non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) can optimize its use in rebuilding the educational system during the ongoing, armed conflict. We focus on three concrete initiatives: the first is located inside Syria, the second is based in a refugee camp in Lebanon, and the third is an online learning platform.

The main hypothesis of this work states that the use of Internet can, if implemented correctly, greatly improve the education stakeholders’ activities, facilitate access to education, enhance the spread of information and increase the international community’s awareness of the situation.

The research design is based on a multiple case study methodology, being heuristic, inductive and particularistic of a critical situation. In order to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation we have observed and continuously followed the development of the educational situation in Syria in both participant and non-participant mode. This entails personal interactions on social media, as well as volunteering in refugee camps and assisting in the creation of educational material for one of the projects under consideration. We have also conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with key informant agents, such as project managers, UNICEF’s employees, employees at the Syrian Ministry of Education, teachers, and Syrian parents and children among other.

Preliminary findings confirm that Internet is a powerful tool that can aid in the process of rebuilding education in the case of the ongoing conflict in Syria. All of the three projects utilize Internet for communication and information, training, and teaching and learning. Our preliminary findings show that social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, are exploited mainly for communication and information while You-tube is the most common tool for free online teaching and learning resources. Free instant messaging applications, such as Whatsapp, are also widely used for communication between teachers and pupils, teachers and parents, and among pupils. Besides, our studies have revealed currently unknown and efficient novel applications of these tools for educational purposes.

Despite its potential, however, the use of Internet is still poorly exploited. Our investigation outlines therefore a wide variety of factors that optimize the potential of using Internet in rebuilding education based on our preliminary findings.