Last updated: 19.04.12

Refugees 'inspired to study' through e-learning

Online learning courses are inspiring refugees in Africa to continue studying.IRIN reports that e-learning courses have helped to encourage a rising recognition of the value of higher education and the benefits this can bring, not only to individuals but to countries as well.When peace arrives in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan, the nations will require a new generation of education professionals such as teachers, the publication pointed out.A recent assessment by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC) revealed only around 75 per cent of displaced children are accessing primary learning, with just over one-third enrolled in high school.However, education officer for the organisation Audrey Nirrengarten said there is evidence to suggest providing opportunities for continued learning in adulthood could encourage more refugees to complete earlier stages of academia.Virtual learning environments might help to achieve this goal and deal with the "huge unmet demand for higher education among refugees" identified by the UNHRC.Utilising modern technologies and forging partnerships with other academic institutions could assist thousands of refugees to engage in distance learning online.A joint initiative between Kenyatta University in Kenya and York University in Canada has resulted in the creation of one of these courses, which will be unveiled in the Kenyan Dadaab camp during the next academic year.This combines face-to-face and online learning courses and will provide participants with the opportunity to earn a four-year bachelor's degree or a teaching diploma.Humanitarian organisation Care reports there are five schools in the Dadaab refugee camp, which cater for around 15,000 children.University of Toronto researcher Sarah Dryden-Peterson is involved in the online training scheme.She told IRIN refugee youngsters can be particularly proactive and motivated when studying."They're looking for any kind of printed material they can get their hands on to learn and keep their brains active," she said, adding: "With the opening up of telecommunications and internet access, refugees are following online courses and developing their own ways of learning by pulling things off the internet."