Tech-backed education – Vignette

Tech-backed education

UNICEF and the UNHRC recently launched The Humanitarian Education Accelerators, an initiative aimed at funding and training education-focused grassroots organizations in the region. By specifically highlighting groups that are technology-based, the initiative is emphasizing the efficiency they believe technology will bring to education systems around the world.

The Humanitarian Education Accelerators initiative is divided into four separate components. The first step is identifying innovators who have demonstrated success on a local level and who are now looking to expand regionally. Once selected, these groups are offered individualized mentorship that helps to foster sustainable and effective practices. This mentorship helps the groups to expand and allows them to innovate while shifting their thinking from a local to a global scale. The next step is administering grants of up to $400,000. The funds are distributed based on embedded evaluations done by Humanitarian Accelerator representatives, which factor in environmental obstacles and long-term sustainability. The final component is a midterm and final evaluation done in partnership with UNICEF. The findings, based on field missions and impact assessments conducted by external firms, will give both the evaluated organization and the global humanitarian aid community a framework for success.

The grassroots organizations selected vary in size, region, and service, but they are all working towards implementing technological innovation to promote education equality. For example, Eneza Education distributes cell phones to low-income, rural schools across four countries in Africa. The phones, outfitted with the ability to quiz students via SMS text message, allow students to hone their knowledge and even receive feedback from live teachers who are available from 8am to 9am. There’s also eKitabu, which distributes eBooks to Sub-Saharan African schools that may otherwise not have access to such an expanse of educational material. Similarly, Can’t Wait to Learn, an organization that focuses on children affected by conflict in areas like Syria and Afghanistan, ensures those children still have access to an education by providing them with e-learning materials. By distributing tablets with preloaded learning games and online classroom tools, this organization prevents children who no longer have access to a school from falling behind academically.

The HEA works to keep organizations like these and many others funded so they can continue to focus on making an impact in their designated communities. Along with financial support, the HEA provides mentorship and guidance. By enlisting the help of individuals who can provide expertise in the humanitarian aid realm, these grassroots groups are able to fine tune approaches that are most effective and ultimately scale up their impact. For example, the HEA backing has allowed Can’t Wait to Learn to integrate psychosocial assistance and life skills into their program. For eKitabu, the backing has led to the development of a new eReading app specifically geared towards children with disabilities.

The running belief behind The Humanitarian Education Accelerators initiative is that technology is the future of educational development in many countries. By not only funding but also working with the development of these groups, The HEA initiative is highlighting the communities where education equality is most needed. It is introducing aid methods that are innovated on the ground level, with the hope that this bottom-up approach will lead to long-term, sustainable results.

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