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

Global eLearning: Learning In Conflict Zones

It would be an understatement to suggest how unprepared Europe and North America were for the waves of refugees fleeing the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq in particular. Regardless of what the media headlines say in order to sell their wares, heroic efforts were made by all countries to accommodate the families now  arriving and continue to arrive at their borders, many requiring food, shelter, and immediate medical care.

However, in settling refugee families, there is a fundamental mistake being made in regards to the education of children and a missed opportunity.

Refugees Vs. Immigrants - Education

In order to understand the educational needs of new families arriving from foreign lands, it is important to make a distinction between landed immigrants and refugees. Landed immigrants make a personal choice to leave their home countries and apply for landed immigrant status in another country. It may be for such reasons as:

  • Better employment opportunities.
  • Better education opportunities.
  • Better opportunity to acquire and settle on land.
  • To join other members of the family already living in the host country.

The important point to emphasize is that it is the family's personal choice to move which is often based upon the pros and cons of moving to a host country. As such, the focus of helping families adapt to the host country involves an education that allows for a smooth "assimilation" into the culture of the host country whether based upon the "mosaic" or "melting pot" models.

Does the assimilation always work? Not always! Some groups seek to stay closely associated with their cultural and linguistic roots once they arrive in the host country. In Canada, as an example, big cities such as Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto often have areas of the city where specific cultural groups have chosen to work and live together. They still have pledged allegiance to their host country but it is a hyphenated allegiance.

For refugees, the situation is quite different because their choice to leave has been a forced choice in order to survive. So, the questions that need some reflection are:

Do these refugee groups want to be assimilated into the culture of the host country and even more important, should the education they receive have as its focus the preparation for assimilation?

As has been witnessed in many European countries, such as Germany, failure to ask these questions have led to clashes of very different civilizations with violence and mistrust on both sides.

Point Of View Of Refugees

If you were to speak to refugee families about what life was like for them before their homeland became a conflict zone, you would see hesitant smiles as they remembered their family's lives and the lives lived by their fathers and grandfathers. In some instances life was hard but for many despite the hardships, they still had peace, even if it was enforced by a dictator such as Saddam Hussein. Many would tell you that they would like to pass on their traditions to their children and grandchildren but only if there was a democratic government in place that guaranteed certain freedoms that citizens in a country like Canada enjoys.

If such a future was made possible in their ancestral homelands, would they want to return with their families? Many would say "yes!" Many would like to see their children grow up to become doctors, engineers, nurses, agriculturalists, scientists, lawyers, teachers, writers...etc. and especially if their children could be the ones to re-build their nations. However, such an opportunity is not available in a war zone. However, such an opportunity could be made possible in the host countries.

The Phoenix Project - A Radical Proposal

Rationale For Name

The choice of the name of the project reflects the desire to see nations rise from the ashes through the efforts of those whose futures were forfeited  as a result of being born into a conflict zone. This represents an opportunity for those most affected to re-build their homelands and re-claim their heritage.

Phoenix Rising--Credit: www.pinterest.com

Purpose

To establish "sanctuary education zones" within host countries where the children of refugees (roughly ages 12 and up) may go to access a networked online school system dedicated to educating the children of refugees in all areas of knowledge related to the necessary skillsets for nation building.

Power of Educators--Credit: Nefortari(1984)

Mission

To educate and empower the children of refugees in the skills of nation building for the purpose of helping to create a viable future for their homelands. By being educated in professions vital to re-building their homelands, they would return to their homelands to fill the vacuum created by conflict and sow the seeds of peace for their people.

At first glance, such a vision might seem improbable, impossible or even grossly naive but even now in the Middle East there are model visionaries for the children to learn from. Such an example is the one set by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the UAE.

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum--Credit: www.twitter.com

Creation Of A Global Networked Online School And Sanctuary Education Zones: 6 Questions To Ask

In order to layout a framework for how such a project would be structured, it is best to think about some pertinent questions:

1. How Do We Identify And Encourage Parents Of Refugee Children To Consider This Type Of Education Path For Their Children?

When refugee families enter host countries and are being processed, we describe what we have in mind and why we see this as a good path for their children. For those who are living in temporary refugee camps and are receiving medical help, this offer can be made to parents of age appropriate children. Otherwise, public announcements made in the different languages of the refugees are posted in areas where refugee families go to get food and water. We might be aware of the facts of survival that exists with in the camps as the following video by the Human Rights organization would indicate:

Syrian Refugee Education [1]

No School for Thousands of Refugees--Credit: Human Rights.org

2. Do We Have The Technology Available For Creating A Globally Connected Online School?

The fact that we already have online schools and universities established means that we do have the technology and the knowledge for setting such a school up. The technology is advancing in such a way as to give more control to all individuals regardless of their status and language and as a result this is less and less of a barrier.

Universal Language Translation [2]

Skype and Universal Translators--Credit: Ryan Hamilton

3. What Do These "Sanctuary Education Zones" In The Host Countries Offer?

These zones contain technology centers that are set up for children to go and login to their education. They are manned by mentors who are trained to interact with the children in English but also interpreters could be added so that they can receive instructions in their own languages. These zones also offer the opportunity for children to collaborate with children in other sanctuary education zones to exchange ideas, solve real world problems and educate each other with respect to their cultural traditions. Part of the path to peaceful co-existence is to be able to communicate with each other in a non-threatening environment.

4. What Happens If These "Sanctuary Education Zones" Should Be Threatened In Some Manner?

Having the school and its courses online would also mean that children could access their education from mobile devices such as Smart Phones, tablets and any other mobile device on a 24/7 time basis. This means that if the centers need to be closed down because of a potential threat, children would not be prevented from continuing their education. With the creation of virtual online communities and worlds, access to education becomes more and more of a collaborative experience.

Virtual World Education

Although the above is just an example, our lessons from the experience with virtual worlds in "Second Life" has taught us that we can collaborate on a global scale. The caveat is that cybersecurity is just as important in the online world as it is in our very real world.

5. How Will This Project Be Financially Supported?

This would require participation by stakeholders willing to do their part in seeking to achieve a higher purpose. LMS providers to digital entrepreneurs would be involved. In order for something like this to happen, we have to come to terms with what value nations place upon providing education for its children and especially in these times, the education of displaced children living in refugee camps and in host countries. The facts speak for themselves:

Military Spending vs. Education--Credit: www.motherjones.com   Military vs. Education Spending-Part II--Credit: www.pinterest.com

 It is time to change the above ratios!

6. Of What Benefit Is Such A Project To The Host Countries And The Rest Of The Nations?

Considering the financial drain that the cycle of conflicts have placed on the economies such as the United States , Russia, and other European nations, such a plan would present an opportunity to break that cycle and allow nations to divert funding into more peaceful endeavors. This brings forth a sobering question:

Is it not about time that we re-task our spending as nations so that we break the cycle of having children who are born into a cycle of violence in favor of spending more to educate new generations to become nation builders? 

Education in Syria--Credit: www.wenr.wes.org

Global eLearning presents us with an opportunity to educate, nurture, and connect generations of children who could become re-builders of their homelands if provided with a peaceful sanctuary in which to grow and acquire the skills of nation building. The inheritance of a peaceful future where they can grow, build families and establish life long friendships on a global scale should not be kept from them any longer. We have the knowledge and the evolving technology to make it happen but do we have the wisdom to put self-interest aside and work for something far more precious and greater than ourselves? That is the tipping point of this proposal.

(If you are passionate about not losing more generations of potential scientists, doctors, engineers, nurses, educators to the vicious cycle of war where children are taught to embrace death, make these two articles go viral on the web!)

Footnotes:

  1. No School for Thousands of Syrian Refugee Children
  2. Skype Translator preview opens the classroom to the world
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