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Free Innovative Learning Games for Arabic Speaking Children Affected by War and Crisis Launched in Lebanon

May 13, 2017
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Free Innovative Learning Games for Arabic Speaking Children Affected by War and Crisis Launched in Lebanon

The Embassy of Norway, under the auspices of H.E. Minister of Education, launched today EduApp4Syria at a public school in Beirut. The innovative learning games included in EduApp4Syria aim to provide a fun and engaging way for children who have had difficulties accessing formal schooling because of war and conflict in the region. Around 2.3 million Syrian children and youth – in Syria and in the neighboring countries – are out of school.

During the launch event H.E. Minister Marwan Hamadeh thanked the donor countries who have supported Lebanon as a host country and those who have suffered the tragedy of displacement because of the conflict adding “today we also welcome the coming together of these efforts with Lebanese creativity represented by the Lebanese app developers Wixel Studio. Through the support of Norway, Australia, the United States and UNICEF we are able to launch these innovative approached to education”.

 

Despite these efforts, more than 30% of the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are out of school. UNICEF, the World Bank, non-governmental organizations and international donors, including Norway, the US and Australia, have provided financial and technical support to implement the government’s plan on Reaching All Children with Education (RACE).

“Lebanon has done a remarkable job in providing education to the Syrian refugee children.” said H.E. Ambassador of Norway, Ms. Lene Lind, “Lebanon has opened up its schools, hired additional teachers and taken care of children who have lost months if not years of schooling due to the conflict in Syria”.

The Beirut-based Lebanese company, Wixels Studios, was one of two winners of an international competition with almost 80 bidders from all over the world to create fun and engaging literacy learning games developed especially for Arabic-speaking children (5-10 years old), who have difficulties getting to school because of war and conflict. The two winning EduApp4Syria-games are free, and the download size is less than 100 MB per game. Once they are downloaded, the games can be used offline on smartphones or tablets. Many refugees and internally displaced families have a smartphone.

 

EduApp4Syra represents an innovative method to reach refugee children or internally displaced children regardless of where they live. The Arabic version of the EduApp4Syria-games might only be the beginning. The games have open source license meaning that anyone can develop the games further and adapt them to other languages and cultures. Interest is strong, both from NGOs, governments and companies, for such re-versioning. The EduApp4Syria-games became publicly available on March 20th. Since then, the games have been downloaded more than 20 000 times. This is a strong figure, considering that outreach and communication work in Arabic through humanitarian organizations and mobile operators has just started.

 

Increased international attention to importance of education during crisis
The two winning games were developed as the result of an international competition. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated the project, and it has provided most of the funding. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim has contributed with their research and expertise within game technology. USAID, World Vision, the Australian government as well as UNICEF Innovation have provided financial and technological support, attesting to the increased international focus on providing education to children also during conflict and crisis. The importance of education in the current Syrian-crisis was also evident at the conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”, which was held in Brussels in April this year.

 

After the initial competition, five companies were selected. Thereafter, the jury opted to award two games given the high quality of both games as well as their different pedagogical approach, graphical style and gameplay. Two international consortia led by the Cologne Game Lab (Germany) and AppsFactory (Romania) respectively developed the winning games. The Beirut-based Wixels Studios is part of the Cologne Game Lab-led consortium. The company has developed the game “Antura and the letters” about the dog Antura which escorts the pupil on his/her journey to literacy. Learning becomes an adventure journey with Antura, the fun-loving dog, eager to catch Arabic letters hidden around the world while solving puzzles and earning gifts along the way. Given the long-term exposure to stress, many Syrian children – both out of school and in school – have difficulties learning. A lot of emphasis has therefore been placed on the games being motivational and engaging and giving the children a fun learning experience. The games can be used by children on their own, as they are highly intuitive.

 

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