Breaking Down the Borders of Education

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Breaking Down the Borders of Education

By Jonathan Moore, employee communications manager for AT&T’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

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Monday, April 3, 2017 - 1:40pm

CAMPAIGN: AT&T: People

CONTENT: Blog

We take our mobile devices for granted. Always on. Always connected. NGO Télécoms Sans Frontières, with support of AT&T Foundation and AT&T, is using this technology to deliver education to young refugees in Syria.

Because when trouble strikes, connectivity can be tricky. And it’s not just natural disasters. For some, their homes, neighborhoods or entire cities may be a war zone – weeks, months or years of conflict reducing the local infrastructure to piles of smoking rubble.

But staying connected is critical. It’s why Télécoms Sans Frontières (Telecoms Without Borders) (TSF) – the world’s leading emergency telecommunications nonprofit organization – came to be. AT&T is a long-standing corporate supporter of TSF’s work, having first gotten on board in 2002.

“I’m very proud of AT&T’s work with TSF, and of their efforts to quickly provide vital connectivity in times of crisis all over the world,” said Eric Loeb, SVP, international external and regulatory affairs.

“Like AT&T, TSF has been committed to advancing education, strengthening communities, and improving lives in communities around the world. On any given day, you may find TSF workers and volunteers providing communications to a migrant family in Europe, promoting online education in Madagascar, or training natural disaster first-responders in Central and South America. They’ve deployed rapidly and made a real difference in more than 70 countries on 5 continents.”

The nonprofit organization’s story begins in the small Southern French town of Pau in 1998. Jean-François Cazenave and Monique Lanne-Petit, both longtime aid workers, made it their mission to reconnect people in a time of crisis.

It’s humanitarian aid with a technology twist.

Jean-François and Monique knew aid workers needed to get connected to their home bases. Connectivity is critical for providing the best support in the field. They also recognized the local population wanted to know – needed to know – what had happened to family and friends. TSF provides that information lifeline.

Children are often most affected. They can be left homeless, orphaned or displaced from a city or even a country. In many cases it’s all three.

And increasingly, TSF is there to provide not only a link to what’s left of home but also to the tools to support a young person’s education.

A crisis in a country doesn’t have to translate to a crisis in the classroom.

In the Turkish town of Gaziantep, and just over the border in the Azez province of Syria, TSF teams are teaching the teachers to use educational apps in the class. The tablets and training project began in 2013 with 100 children, 1 school and 10 devices.

Now 1,500 children from 5 schools on both sides of the border are getting the best education they can with access to 60 tablets.

Emmanuel Jean is a program manager with TSF.

“What we are doing is using technology in a humanitarian manner,” he said from the TSF base in Gaziantep. “These children have had an unstable education for six years, and we are giving them the tools to stabilize their learning.

“When you are a child, you have to discover who you are, what you like, where your talents lie. Education is fundamental to that. Our technology gives them access to the world, but also access to themselves.”

Each location has its unique challenges.

“In Gaziantep we are working with children who are living in the town, rather than in a refugee camp. This is a challenge because they don’t all have access to schooling. There is an activity center and we provide support that way,” Emmanuel said.

“Our team inside Syria works with the teachers, but they face other challenges. One of the schools has no power so we have to provide batteries to charge the technology as well.”

But he takes the long view: “There are many challenges, but the local educational office is interested in what we are doing. We hope that when peace comes to Syria we can perhaps stay on and continue to support the teachers and children.”

Keywords: Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | AT&T | AT&T Foundation | Children | EMEA | Education | Innovation & Technology | NGO | Social Impact & Volunteering | Syria | Technology

CAMPAIGN: AT&T: People

CONTENT: Blog