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Using digital technology to educate, empower and connect Rohingya refugee children to the wider world

We are pioneering a digitally-based system of education and content production to give voice and knowledge to displaced, Rohingya children

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

Bangladesh is home to 1.5 million Rohingya. Though waves of Rohingya have fled Myanmar for decades, the world finally took notice in the wake of the 2017 genocide. In the space of a few months, 1 million Rohingya poured across the border fleeing unspeakable abuse. Life in Bangladesh; however, has provided little comfort. As leaders bicker over what to do next, the refugees remain confined and stateless. Authorities have limited aid allowed not wanting to be seen as overly-accommodating by their own people. Critically, current policies only permit education materials in the refugee camps to be in English and Burmese – two languages scarcely spoken by the Rohingya people. As a result, students and teachers alike are largely unable to understand the materials. Children on the Edge (COTE) began its work on the Bangladesh border in 2010, operating the only education program for refugee children in the makeshift camps for years thereafter. Over that period of time, COTE and its partner developed a successful framework for working with Rohingya migrant children and helping their transition into Bangladeshi society. In light of the current challenges, we are pioneering a program to deliver education into 178 classrooms via the 4G cellular network and battery-powered projectors. COTE has established a small, multimedia studio to produce digital lessons in the Rohingya language, opening the door for a meaningful education to take place. We are also training and equipping each teacher to allow them to gather digital content produced by the children. This content is aggregated, edited, and sent as digital newsletters via WhatsApp to classrooms all over Bangladesh -- creating links between Rohingya children in the refugee camps and slums as well as with children in the host communities. The next step is to connect these children to other displaced kids where COTE works in Uganda, Lebanon, and India, allowing them to share their thoughts, talents and stories with each other.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Phase 1 (Digital Education and Content Production): We are targeting the 3 groups we currently work with in Bangladesh a) Rohingyas living in refugee camps, b) Rohingyas living in slum communities, c) Bangladeshi nationals living in slum communities. Phase 2 (Connecting Displaced Children): Digital content produced by the children will be exchanged between displaced populations where COTE works in in Lebanon (Syria conflict), Uganda (DRC conflict), and India (trafficked/displaced kids).

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)

For the past decade COTE has worked to foster communication between refugees and host communities in Bangladesh. Since 2017 the government has strictly limited the movement of refugees. Therefore, creating a digital bridge to communicate across is essential for building a shared future vision. This platform will allow students to understand what exists beyond the refugee camp’s boundaries as well as allow host community children to see the lives of those who are living confined in the camps.

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

As Nelson Mandela once pointed out, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The first intent of our program is to provide meaningful education to thousands of Rohingya children as they have no other means of learning. These children will determine the future of their people. It is our belief that education is a human right which is critical to giving a child the best opportunities in life. However, our classrooms are not solely places of education. Our methodology and pedagogy place a heavy focus on cultivating a child’s ability to express themselves, ask questions, and solve problems. One school day each week is dedicated entirely to art, creative writing, drama, and play. These are means by which children learn about themselves, their human rights, and the world around them. With the aid of digital technology, children in this program will be able to share their ideas, express themselves, and learn from a much wider audience.

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

The ripples of this program could be far reaching, but the foremost aim of our efforts is to provide meaningful education to Rohingya, refugee children in a language they actually understand. Given the current restrictions, this can be most effectively done through creating digital lessons which an be tailored to their needs and delivered each school day. The initial response from the students to this program has been overwhelmingly positive. Child after child expressed joy and disbelief to be actually able to understand the lessons being presented. A secondary (and equally exciting) outcome of this program is the opening of the door between refugee and host communities. The digital platform will allow children from both communities to share their ideas, thoughts, and creative endeavors. Further, with greater time and investment, children in these communities will be able to exchange digital content they produce with other children facing challenges across the globe.

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

Having worked with children for 30 years, COTE has decades of experience in connecting displaced children with their host communities and the broader world. It has always been a goal to also provide these children a platform to be heard and express themselves. For example, COTE has circulated a child-produced, printed newsletter in Bangladesh in both the refugee camps and host communities for the past 9 years. However, the reach of a printed newsletter is limited. Now, with the cell phone networks finally able to accommodate meaningful transfers of data, the technology has the made it possible to allow children’s voices to be heard on a wider scale. With the aid of technology, our vision to connect displaced children around the world, allowing them to share their ideas, talents, and stories.

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

COTE’s program works in 3 communities: Refugee: There are 150 classrooms in the refugee camps along the border with Myanmar. Kutupalong is the world’s largest refugee camp and the home to the majority of our schools. Refugees’ movements are strictly limited and there are few opportunities for expression exist. Enclave: Many Rohingya who do manage to move beyond the refugee camps end up in enclave, slum communities further inland comprised exclusively of Rohingya migrants. Residents say that, though the conditions are tough, they prefer to work to fashion a better life for themselves than remain the refugee camps. Host Community: COTE runs schools in host community slums. These areas where there are no government schools available to children. The majority of students enrolled also hold part-time jobs to help their families survive. In spite of the harsh conditions, attendance in these classrooms averages 98% demonstrating the strong desire for education in these communities.

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

There is a huge potential for expression amongst students in all our learning centers, regardless of which community they are located within. This program taps into that potential and literally gives them the microphone to express themselves. As they are able to share their stories and talents, they can also be inspired by how children in other communities and countries are overcoming the challenges they face. Feedback received from our pilot program strongly indicates that this type of exposure is positive, powerful, and character-building for participating children.

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

COTE has partnered with the Bangladeshi NGO Mukti since 2009. Our organizations have faced numerous challenges together as government officials were openly hostile to any group (especially local orgs) supporting Rohingya migrants in the early years of our efforts. Over the past decade we have collaborated closely to create a program which is durable and provides innovative services to children in need throughout southern Bangladesh. Learning centers also partners closely with program stakeholders. Each center hosts a School Management Committee comprised of parents and community leaders who meet quarterly to give feedback and address issues facing the schools. Further, each center hosts a Child Council which acts a 'student government' which meets monthly to express the ideas and concerns of the students they represent to program staff.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

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

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Children on the Edge

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

Children on the Edge exists to help marginalized and forgotten children, who are living on the edge of their societies. These are children without parental care, neglected or persecuted by their governments, ignored by international media and missed by large overseas agencies. Working in partnership with local communities, we help create safe, child friendly environments. We support children to realize their rights, and restore the ingredients of a full childhood by generating hope, life, color and fun.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United Kingdom

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Children on the Edge 5 The Victoria, 25 St Pancras Chichester West Sussex PO19 7LT United Kingdom

Attachments (1)

Bangladesh six month report July 2019 .pdf

Most recent update on our efforts in Bangladesh


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