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A Bridge to Higher Education

Kiron proposes a project to bridge the educational gap for the most vulnerable populations in Lebanon through a blended education initiative

Photo of Christin Bohnke

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees in the world per capita, with an estimated 2.5 million refugees residing in a country of 4 million. 76% refugees live below the poverty line and face restricted self-reliance opportunities. In addition, it is estimated that 1.5 million disadvantaged Lebanese are also in need of support and perceived competition over employment and resources leads to host community fatigue and increasing tensions. In order to succeed, youth - Lebanese citizens and refugees - need flexible educational opportunities. In the case of some Syrian refugees, education can also offer a pathway to rebuilding their country in the future. Kiron proposes a blended education initiative, consisting of a digital learning certificate program and peer-to-peer support components. We will initiate a bridge program for students without sufficient secondary education to access higher education. Participants will take part in up to three, two-month long blended learning certificate programs with University Preparation Guidance (English, Math, Major orientation, Scholarship Guidance) & Content (f.e. Business and Economics) and be given support to transfer to a university with credit recognition or receive guidance on alternative pathways. We will implement measures designed to foster social cohesion between refugees and local communities. The goal is to build crucial and certifiable skills in order to open paths towards higher education, while fostering a strong, inclusive community. Our students will go through the following pathway: onboarding and learning about Kiron, registering, taking bridge courses to catch up on knowledge that was missing from secondary education, certificate program, scholarship guidance, university application support, transfer to university with credit recognition from the program (for eligible students), guidance on alternative pathways.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Lebanon has been particularly affected by the Syrian war, with an influx of 1.5 million refugees since the conflict began (in addition to an estimated 800,000 Palestinian refugees already in the country). Immediate measures that do not put a strain on an already overtaxed economy and social system are needed to ensure that refugees and underserved communities receive a fair chance at accessing higher education.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Education is a bridge designed to grow and strengthen bonds between refugees and host communities. The project will offer both communities the chance to access higher education through a bridging program. Our project features cohesion activities such as joint projects, events, and classes, designed to create robust communities. We will train participants to become tutors of their peers, thereby empowering both refugees and host communities and giving them the chance to inhabit a teacher role.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

While we believe that basic necessities and primary education are absolutely vital for communities on the move, we want to go a step further to nurture the amazing potential of our students beyond basic survival and coping. By working towards access to higher education, we are empowering our participants to use their skills and build their knowledge and to become the future leaders and builders in their communities. With Kiron, participants make the step from “refugee” or “poor” to “student”. By being able to utilise their knowledge and strength, to acquire new skills and support others in their communities, Kiron students will be empowered to reach their personal learning goals and to work towards a brighter future. Our work will directly go towards achieving SDG4 (Quality Education) by introducing a comprehensive bridge program that will allow communities to access higher education even if they do not yet fulfil the formal requirements.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

We will give the most vulnerable members of the Lebanese society the chance to access quality education. Our offer is particularly relevant for female learners or learners with work and care obligation as it is often more difficult for them to access more traditional education offers. Eligible participants are given the guidance to transfer to university and finish their degree. Additionally, the enrolment and completion of Kiron’s certificate program will be looked upon by the UNHCR during the DAFI scholarship selection process, for admission into the Lebanese University. Students will also have the opportunity to apply to Beirut Arab University as Kiron’s course credits are transferred there. Participants will have acquired new skills to support them towards their next goals and have the option to remain a Kiron student after the project is completed, having access to all resources Kiron has to offer. Our cohesion program will have fostered a stronger learning community.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Our students, their determination and aspirations, are our biggest motivation and we are guided by them in everything we do. They, and we, believe that education is the tool for a better life and future prospects and that people affected by poverty and displacement also have a right to study in higher education courses. Yet, globally fewer than 1% of refugees have access to higher education, severely restricting their chances to get skilled for the labour market or to rebuild their countries in the future. In addition, secondary education dropout rates are high, making access to higher education even harder. Kiron therefore serves a community that otherwise has very little chance to attend higher education courses. We also believe that a strong community of learners has a real chance to work towards social cohesion. By having refugees and members of Lebanese underserved communities work and study together with specific activities, we hope to create more resilient learning communities.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The project is designed to provide educational opportunities to the most disadvantaged youths in Lebanon and we are specifically recruiting refugee youth and disadvantaged members of the local population as well as students that dropped out or are towards the end of their secondary education. The majority of our current students come from Syria (72,1%), followed by Palestine (15,1%), Lebanon (10,9%), and others (1.94%). 65% of our students are male and 34.5% female. Around 30% of our current students are based in Beirut with the second biggest city in terms of student population being Sidon with 16%. In the course of the project, we will make specific recruitment efforts, both online and offline, to address vulnerable populations, aiming at fostering their knowledge and/or at integrating a local university. We expect the target group to be essentially similar to the students already registered on the Kiron campus.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our students are at the heart of everything that we do. Kiron Lebanon currently serves 150 students and we are in close contact with as many of them as possible, either personally in our Beirut office or online through various support measures such as online classrooms, office hours, or the Kiron forum, where students can connect and exchange ideas. In the project, we will involve students during the initial implementation phase by holding focus group workshops to ensure that the needs, viewpoints, and the potentials of our students are included in every aspect of the project. In these workshops, facilitated by Kiron staff, students have the chance to influence the implementation of the project to ensure that the project creates the biggest impact and value possible. We will also train students to become peer-to-peer tutors and facilitators, leveraging their potential and strengths. Thus, participants can take on the empowering role of teachers and give back to their communities.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Kiron is working within a strong network of other NGOs, government and international partners in Lebanon. Kiron would like to deliver this project in various locations of Lebanon and to an increased number of students. Thus, we will partner with other local or international NGOs present outside Beirut, such as Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Sidon, or local universities such as Beirut Arab University (BAU) in different regions of the country. Kiron has MoUs with BAU and NRC allowing for a better transition between services. The partner organisations would support in the recruitment of the students, the provision of study centers where students meet their tutors and form study groups, as well as in the transfer process to university. BAU recognises Kiron course credits when students apply and get accepted. Also, the UNHCR will look upon the enrolment and completion of Kiron’s certificate program as an added value during the DAFI scholarship selection process, for admission into

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Kiron Open Higher Education

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Kiron Open Higher Education is a nonprofit that combines digital innovation and strategic partnerships to empower refugees worldwide and underserved communities in the Middle East through online learning opportunities. Since 2015 Kiron offers free, tailor-made study programs and short courses by clustering Massive Open Online Courses from renowned educational providers. Our programs are complemented with a wide range of support services, from language classes to personalised guidance. This project would allow us to support our Lebanon-based students. We have the expertise running similar certificate programs to the one proposed here in Jordan and Germany, as well as with a small pilot directly in Lebanon with NRC in Sidon, as well as the local knowledge in Lebanon to provide support for our students and to create meaningful education opportunities that are quality assured. Our extensive local and global network ensures that all our offers are embedded in additional support structures.

Website URL:

kiron.ngo

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Germany

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Berlin

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Photo of Uchenna Okafor
Team

Hello Christin Bohnke! Flexible education to develop refugees and displaced persons is obviously insightful and unique. However, what is your plan for disabled persons among them? Moreover, if I understood correctly, digital learning means internet enabled mobile device and computer learning. If correct, how compatible are the learning documents and files with the popular speech accessibility Apps? You may agree with me that some disabled persons require special additional App to access computers and other portable electronic devices.

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