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The Right to Digital Literacy

Improving the learning outcomes of disadvantaged communities through technology and a circular economy approach.

Photo of Rudayna Abdo
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Tell us about your idea

The problem that Thaki is trying to solve is critical, urgent, and pressing, as many refugee and vulnerable children in Lebanon are becoming more marginalized by the day. Lebanon currently hosts the highest rate of refugees per capita in the world with over 1 million registered Syrian refugees (unofficially 1.5 million) and over 200,000 Palestinian refugees. A particularly concerning threat is that school dropout rate for both Syrian refugee and vulnerable Lebanese is continuing to rise across the country and many children are deprived of their right to education.

In addition, Lebanon is facing an alarming economic crisis which is forcing families to pull tens of thousands of children out of the private schools into a state education system that is impoverished and already struggling to cope. Public schools are over-crowded, under-resourced and suffer from poorly trained teachers who have limited capacities to nurture and transfer the deep expertise needed towards gainful employment settings. With over 4000 official jobs lost in the past few months, and the blazing heat of unemployment, poverty and educational inequity in the Middle East will only become worse.

The lack of access, training, and resources has become much more evident and alarming when schools were forced to close in response to the global pandemic.

Thaki has established an innovative solution to prevent vulnerable children from becoming more marginalized. We act as a bridge between education technology solutions and some of the most vulnerable communities in the Middle East.

Thaki provides access to offline quality educational content that instills values and builds digital skills and learning capacity of disadvantaged children and youth through a bespoke platform that promotes remote learning skills needed to acquire employability and gain 21st-century skills. Its unique model satisfies the needs and desires of multiple stakeholders:

Thaki seeks donations of laptops that are “fully amortized,” having fulfilled their economic utility and still have years of functional life in them. These laptops are then transformed into valuable life-fulfilling e-learning tools. We load the laptops with rich, engaging, credible content and software tools for all ages to enhance digital literacy, deliver educational content, and support personal enrichment to help those who are deprived and in most need. Each Thaki laptop holds the equivalent of hundreds of books and tools teaching digital literacy, life-skills, values, coding, language, math, reading, and providing access to e-books and educational games. Thaki also provides a teaching resource guide with tutorials and videos to empower both teachers and the children to self learn.

The offline-solution that Thaki offers addresses the unavailability or poor internet connectivity situation. Other benefits include a bespoke user-friendly, searchable “plug and play” system, in Arabic and English.

The laptops are distributed to organizations, camps and centers, and also to public university students who need an e-device to support their learning and help build their futures. It also helps poorly trained teachers become digitally literate to support their pupils' learning. Thaki is currently in the process of developing more tools and resources in collaboration with local intuitions.

While our Thaki platform brings a rich offering of learning content to the communities that we serve, we also place emphasis on integrating the software tools that are loaded on the laptops. These include the LibreOffice suite which is equivalent to and fully compatible with the Microsoft suite, as well as a multitude of other advanced software programs including Gimp (a graphic editing tool similar to Photoshop), Blender (a 3D creation suite), LibreCAD (a computer aided design program), FreeCAD (a parametric 3D modeler) - among others.

We believe that it is important for resilient personal and professional development to learn how to use these tools and be flexible enough to navigate between different platforms (e.g. between Microsoft, the Google suite and the LibreOffice suite). We are striving to teach children and teachers alike HOW to learn and not just WHAT to learn. To that end, we are in the process of deepening our learner journeys and training toolkit, taking our current resource guide (http://thaki.org/resource-guide/) to the next big level.

During COVID lockdown we have been meeting with our recipient partners to continue the learning process under severe limitations. Among other things we launched a WhatsApp and social media campaign to share resources, tools and tricks.

Moreover, our model serves as a mechanism to lessen the strain on corporate and government financial solicitations. And as importantly, Thaki plays an environmental role by redirecting e-waste away from landfills, giving laptops a second life with a huge impact.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Digital learning is considered more of a luxury than it is of a necessity in the Middle East. The global pandemic has exposed the failures of our education system, particularly in the professional development of its teachers and the outdated curricula that are being used since the 1950’s.In Lebanon many schools do not use technology for instruction; in fact, most state schools do not even have computers.There is a mismatch between teachers’ skills and course requirements and the 21st-century employability skills which are critically detrimental to the economy and future of the country. Consequently, impoverished and out of school children are held back from becoming self-sufficient and productive.Children require more self-driven learning opportunities that reinforce creativity and tolerance and allow them to thrive. Education and, today, digital literacy are a human right and they should be inclusive and accessible for every child. The old teaching paradigm needs to stay in the past.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I’m the daughter of Palestinian refugees, born in Lebanon, raised in Greece, university in America and Canada, immigration to Canada, a decade in the Gulf, now in Europe. I, myself, was displaced in 1976 because of war.I witnessed intense fighting, bomb attacks and evacuation from our home, which marked and disrupted my childhood. Traumatic as this experience was, it pales in comparison to what millions of children experience today in the region and around the world.

The mantra I grew up with is that your education is the only thing you can take with you. Only through education can we lead to a more prosperous, democratic, and sustainable world.That is why I founded Thaki, it means “smart” in Arabic but plays on the phonetic sound of “the key”–our tag line is to give children “the key” to unlock their potential and provide them with their right to education and digital literacy.

What region are you located in?

  • Western Asia

Where are you located?

We are predominantly operating in Lebanon and plan to expand to Jordan and other neighboring countries. Lebanon is a beautiful country in the Middle East known for its generosity, hospitality, and diversity of its 18 religious sects. However, it has been suffering from brain-drain and a severe economic crisis. The global pandemic has posed the biggest threat to stability since the end of the civil war in 1990 & many fear a new slide into violence as tension is increasing throughout the country.

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Spam
Photo of Gilberto Cardenas
Team

Hello Rudayna Abdo,
There are so many great ideas in the challenge and yours is one that I really like. Having laptops pre-loaded with learning content address many issues that students have as they continue in their educational journey, I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for displaced refugees who have given everything up.
How do you envision the content to be curated for different ages?
Do you feel that there could be a hub students who managed to get access to the internet can go to to download more content?
Great work.

Spam
Photo of Rudayna Abdo
Team

Hello Gilberto Cardenas and thank you for your comments and question.

All of our offline content is tagged and searchable, in Arabic and English, so if a learner wants to access something specific - e.g. Grade 4, science, English, or Grade 8, audio book, in Arabic they can easily do so. Some programs such as "E-learning for Kids" have the learner journey readily mapped out. We also have a resource guide that maps the content and includes a description, tutorial videos and resource guides, and a sorting according to subject, grade level, language. Please note that we are in the process of creating a Training Toolkit which will be much more robust and will lay out learner journeys for for both teacher and student alike. Our target launch date for this is August.

Finally, with respect to accessing new content, our user interface is built such that any new content that we upload to our cloud server can be downloaded onto our laptops if the user has internet connection. This was an important feature that we built into our latest UI, Thaki version 3.2.

I hope this helps!
Best regards,
Rudayna

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