Global eLearning: Rising To The Challenge Of Nation Building - Part 1

Global eLearning: Rising To The Challenge Of Nation Building - Part I
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Summary: The greatest advantage to eLearning is that its reach is global. Through the use of eLearning we have the technology and infrastructure to educate children in remote areas. However, what about the education of children in conflict zones or refugee camps? This article is about reaching them.

Global eLearning: A Story To Tell

In 1982, I was a classroom teacher in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at the grade 8 level. It was September, the beginning of a new school year, and my assignment was to instruct students in the area of Social Studies and Current Events for several grade 8 classes. All the students were bubbling over with excitement. Okay, some were lukewarm. I was informed that I would be receiving a new student, whose family had just arrived from the country of Lebanon. Since I was a current events teacher, I knew that Lebanon had been involved in a civil war with a number of factions still fighting there. Nothing could prepare me for what I was to experience that day when Ali entered my class.

A class assignment was given that day having students describe what a typical daily schedule was like for them at home and then share what they wrote with the rest of the class. This is what Ali read to us:

"...In Lebanon, early in the morning before breakfast my father would gather me and my younger brother together in another room. My father would then blindfold each of us and then place an AK47 automatic rifle in front of us and tell us to take it completely apart and he would time us. After recording our times, he would then then tell us to reassemble it while blindfolded and again he would time us. He would always say that we need to get quicker and more efficient. After our tests we would eat breakfast. Then we would pick up our freshly cleaned weapons and father would tell us to follow him and we would go out quietly and pick spots under cover so that we could kill members of the Christian militia. After doing that we would gather up weapons and ammunition and then go among the ruins to scavenge for things that my father thought we could use..."

After listening to Ali's story and in a room very quiet, one student asked him a few questions:

Student: "Didn't your mother try to stop you from killing people?"

Ali: "No, my father said that we had to do this or they would kill us. My mother went along with whatever my father said."

Student: "Why did you come to Canada?"

Ali: "My mother was killed by the militia. My father, with many tears, said that we must leave this place and go somewhere where he could grow old and see his children go to school, get an occupation, get married, and have many children. He heard that Canada was a safe place for such things and a beautiful country."

That day many of us grew up after spending most of our young lives taking much for granted.

The Power Οf Education Τo Change Τhe World

The power of education to change the world for the better has been an ideal that has been debated through the ages, but no more has it been most valued than when a country has lapsed into difficult times brought on by poverty and war. It is at these times when the access to education is removed that we see the growth of injustices, persecution, and that which is morally abhorrent in the eyes of humanity.

Nelson Mandela Quote--Credit:

Due to the fact that education has the power to free people from ignorance, enables them to help themselves improve the quality of their lives and in the end, collectively build democratic, viable nations, tyrants, dictators and others who cherish power and the wealth it provides them, fear the power of education. In many countries where military coups have occurred, educators have been targeted by those who do not want the people under their control to be led to hope that a better life is possible.

Education In Conflict Zones

Most rational individuals would agree that if young people had the opportunity to grow up and be educated free from an atmosphere of hate, mistrust, war, and civil instability, that we would see the rise of doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. dedicated to improving the quality of life of their people in their own countries and perhaps also contributing to the quality of life of peoples on a global scale. Given the truth of such a statement, we are faced with a sobering question:

How many generations are we willing to sacrifice who have the potential to become nation builders?

Going to School in a War Zone--Credit: Pinterest

Looking at the current conflict zones, the statistics and conditions speak to the frightening answer to that question:

Children Out of School--Credit:

For those children who survive but remain in a conflict zone surrounded by hate and destruction and with no access to education, they become part of the violence in order to survive.

Children of the Lebanese War

 Those who don't survive do not just become statistics but become a nail in the coffin of hope for a country.

Statistics--Credit:  Children Who Will Never Be Nation Builders--Credit: www.baodatviet.un

The Case Οf Syria

In a recent newspaper series titled The Great Exodus of Our Time by Michael Petrou, the journalist meticulously highlights individual cases of children who as a result of the devastation in their homelands and the need to labor in order to support their families because their parents have been physically incapacitated or even killed, have no hope for an education in any form. As he points out:

"What chance does a 12 yr. old boy---who was six when the Syrian war began and has never been to school---have of catching up to his peers elsewhere or even learning to read?"

For girls, early marriage robs many Syrian refugees of an education. As one female student by the name of Safa Zreiqi points out:

"Some of us don't want to get married. We didn't go to school for nothing. What's a shame is that we studied and got degrees and can't get work.'"

As Petrou very aptly points out:

"These boys and girls, an entire generation of Syrians, will one day be men and women who will shape Syria and the Middle East. They will have a far more consequential impact on the region than now."

My question to you, as educators, is one that is daunting to our souls:

Given the state of lack of education for thousands of refugee children in Syria and abroad, will the cycle of hate and destruction continue to grow with no end in sight or will it finally be broken so that the coming generations will be peace builders?

Global eLearning And Nation Building

Coming back to Nelson Mandela' s statement that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, as an educator you either believe this to be a true statement or you write it off as just another cute meme.

The numbers of refugees from the Syrian conflict have overwhelmed the resources of the countries taking them in. For example Jordan, a country of 6.5 million people, is host to 1.5 million refugees, whereas the country of Canada, with a population of approximately 36 million people, has taken in 40,000 refugees since 2015. We could look at the different European countries and the numbers of refugees that they have taken in, but that is not the point of this article.

Refugee Education--Credit: Filippo Grandi (U.N)

As Filippo Grandi points out, how we educate refugee children will determine what the future Syria, Iraq, and other conflict areas in Africa, South America, and Asia will look like. What we are talking about is developing nation builders or re-builders who will break the perpetual cycle of violence found in their home countries. On reading this your response might be:

Noble sentiment! But how?

Global eLearning And Empowering Generations To Be Nation Builders

The nation of Canada just celebrated 150 years as an independent and free nation on July 1, 2017. When we look back to the sacrifices made by past Canadians we recognize that it took real nation builders to unite a land into the second largest country in land mass in the world and yet with a comparatively small population compared to our powerful neighbours to the south. People of those times said that what we were attempting was impossible. Our fathers of confederation built the Canadian Pacific Railway that would unite our land from west to east coast. At the time all bets were against accomplishing such a feat given the varied terrain but we accomplished in 10 years what others said would take 25 yrs.  The Impossible Dream--Credit:

We know that the key to developing nation builders is to provide an environment where hope for the future of a country can be nourished. Obviously, this can not be done in a war zone.

What I am going to propose to you is an unorthodox solution, a solution as impossible as building a railway across a sea of mountains using only equipment from the 19th century, and yet it may spark other thoughts because it has become the moral imperative of our time to counter those who have spent the last generation as nation destroyers with a new generation of nation builders.

My friends in LinkedIn, we need to put aside our very narrow, daily self-interests and make a greater good a reality because it has the power to change our future and break the spiral perpetuated by nation destroyers. So, I ask your help to make this a reality and have this article and its Part II go viral on the web. Don't give credit to me, but give it to people like Mandela who know what it means to have the candle of hope fade.

Global eLearning is part of this solution that I will describe how in Part II.