Lama: a female engineer building the future of Syrian refugee children

Publication date: Apr 23, 2020
“They find people that speak Arabic, a safe space, they find love:” these are the words Lama uses to explain the importance of TSF activities for Syrian refugee children in Gaziantep, Turkey. Lama is an engineer from Damascus, Syria, and is one of the professors running our education activities in Turkey. Safety, a welcoming environment, learning a language may all seem like simple things, but for children who have grown up in the midst of war, the possibility to continue their education is just the best opportunity they could have.
Lama teaching children how to use mBots

Becoming an engineer: a childhood dream

Becoming an engineer has always been Lama’s dream: “My father is an engineer and I like the field from a young age. I graduated from the Faculty of Information Engineering, University of Damascus, specializing in networks and operating systems.” Because of the war ravaging her country, in 2013 she took refuge in Turkey and, three years later, she started working with TSF to give Syrian children the possibility to continue their education…and she loved it: “I like to use modern technologies in education. I like to teach Syrian children how to use modern technologies that open the doors of the world for them. One day I was giving a lesson about Google Maps and I discovered that, although Google Maps is a well-known app, children do not know about it and do not know how to use it. That has been one of the moments in which I realised the importance of our work for Syrian children.

Out-of-school children: an essential activity to improve their future

The situation for Syrian children in Turkey is not easy. One of the main problems for them is the language. They don’t speak Turkish, or very little, so they have significant difficulties at school. These communication problems added to cultural differences are considerable obstacles to the socialisation with their peers. This reduces their willingness to go to school.

For this reason, TSF activities are very important. “Syrian children come here to learn digital skills, Arabic and Mathematics. It is a place to learn and to find new friends. Programming the robots and learning computer skills strengthens their self-confidence; it becomes a psychological support. This helps them in their lives and can open up prospects for them to work in the future. Through TSF activities, children learn that technologies are not just a game, that they can be used in useful ways, for example for learning online.”

Woman and engineer: “I would tell them to believe in their dreams

Lama’s career hasn’t been easy. In addition to being a woman in a predominantly male dominated sector, the never-ending conflict and the forced transfer to a new country didn’t make it easier for her to make her dream come true. However, her work in support of TSF activities has been exceptional. She didn’t only bring her technical skills to help refugee children learn basic digital skills essential for their future, but she also took up different challenges. She learnt to teach in an innovative way and has been able to adapt her work to the skills belts system. In addition, in collaboration with the other professors, she adapted rapidly the activities to the COVID-19 pandemic. She reorganized them to allow children to continue learning from home and manages the regular contacts with them during this period.

As female engineer, she wants to send a message to girls and young women willing to take up an IT career: “I would tell them that an IT career is not easy and it requires constant work to be always up to date with new developments. I would tell them to believe in their dreams and to believe that they have all the skills they need for this sector.”

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