The mobile phone gives refugees and displaced persons access to education

Quite often I hear people saying that refugees that now live in our country shouldn't be allowed to have a mobile phone.

I hear people saying thinks like:

  • How can they afford a phone when they are refugees?
  • They should spend their money on something else than an expensive phone.
  • Don't they have other things to do than playing games on their phones?

Last week I was in London at the #OER17 Länk till annan webbplats. (Open Educational Resources) conference and there I listened to Timothy Read from Spain speaking about The Moonlite Project Länk till annan webbplats.. His talk gave me a completely new perspective when it comes to refugees and mobile phones. Since a lot of us teachers blog and universities have resources that are open and free to use, the mobile phone actually gives refugees access to education. 

The Moonlite Project is an Erasmus project and the goal is to help displaced people getting access to Higher Education through non-formal open learning, specifically MOOCs Länk till annan webbplats. (an online course Länk till annan webbplats. aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web Länk till annan webbplats.. )

I was very impressed by the project which is described like this:

”Every human being has the fundamental right to achieve their maximum potential in life. However, there is a crisis involving refugees and migrants around the world of an unprecedented magnitude. According to data provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, half of displaced persons are under 18 years old. This displacement can last from a few months to many years (or a lifetime), which means that more than a generation are being deprived of the most basic levels of education and even from training that could enable them to have a dignified existence and an independent career, according to their own choices and potential abilities. Since it is, for the time being, not feasible for displaced persons to access formal face-to-face primary, secondary and tertiary institutions on a stable basis, the authors argue that MOOCs offer a way to address these challenging scenarios, especially in terms of the flexible and collaborative exploitation of popular free/open systems.”, 2017 Länk till annan webbplats.

I started thinking about this project and I do believe that we should be more open about education and think outside the ordinary box.  

In Sweden and probably in other countries as well, we have a rather large number of students who, for different reasons, don't come to school. These students are not refugees or displaced persons, but have other problems and feel that they can't go to school. If schools offered MOOCs and/ or tried to be more flexible and perhaps offered them to join class via Skype or Facetime they would still be able to get their education.

We also have students that need to hide and live with a protected identity. These students could now "come to school" and meet their friends and teachers virtually.

The traditional school needs to open up and face reality. We have a lot of young people today who don't get an education at all. What can we do to help them? Offering MOOCs in different subjects could be one way, but there are many other ways as well. Giving refugees, displaced people and students with other problems access to education through the internet and their mobile phone is definitely a way worth exploring and developing.

(This text is written in English since I wanted Timothy to read it)

Sara Bruun

Lärare i engelska och IKT-pedagog. Tidigare ämnesspanare.