Syria: TSF opens two Internet centres for Syrian children

Publication date: Apr 16, 2013
Having already been working alongside Syrian doctors for more than a year thanks to 15 satellite lines and 9 broadband connections in different hospitals of Syria, Télécoms Sans Frontières is increasing its support to the Syrian people by intervening directly among children on both sides of the border with Turkey.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 4 million civilians have been displaced inside Syria, and that more than one million have fled the war and are sheltered in camps in neighbouring Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. More than half are children with a majority under the age of 11. These children have been traumatised by the war that has been raging for more than 2 years.

Turkey is currently hosting 190,000 refugees in 17 government-managed camps; in addition, more than 70,000 Syrians have taken refuge within Turkish towns. Half of the refugees are children, often aged less than 11 years.

Technology and communications can play a crucial role to help them rebuild their lives. In order to help them continue their schooling, Télécoms Sans Frontières is setting up two Internet centres within two refugee schools for around 2,000 Syrian refugee children.

The first is part of a school set up in the Al Salama refugee camp in Syria. This camp was placed on the Syrian-Turkish border to shelter thousands of people fleeing the war. In this ‘improvised’ buffer zone, comfortable conditions are more or less non-existent, a state which is made worse by the fact that the traumatised people who live there have escaped a life of constant bombardment.

TSF has provided Android tablets for the Al Salama centre as well as a selection of applications for subjects such as maths, Arabic, natural sciences, English and French. The children, divided into classes of 14, are supervised by local staff trained by TSF.

Beyond the curriculum, TSF has set up three special classes for the most disadvantaged children, often illiterate, who come from in and around Aleppo. TSF has prepared targeted applications helping them to make a start in reading and writing. So far, more than 200 people, teachers and pupils alike, have been able to benefit from the centre.

The second centre is in Gaziantep, Turkey, inside the so-called ‘School of Friendship’ established by the town council for Syrian child refugees. Most of them are from the region of Aleppo which is located 120 km from this major city in eastern Turkey.

Since TSF have installed the centre, more than 660 people have been able to benefit from it. ICT and internet lessons have been integrated into the school’s curriculum, allowing the pupils to get used to the different software.

The Internet connection offers children the opportunity to maintain a link with their friends and families, but also to have some entertainment and to forget the trauma of war. The aims of these two centres is also to allow the refugee children to communicate together, from one camp to another. Thanks to TSF’s actions and the ICT they have provided, these children, separated by international frontiers, are now able to communicate and share their experiences of the conflict they have suffered.

Outside of school hours, the Internet centres are accessible to all of the refugees. They will thus be able to re-establish ties to the rest of the world and communicate with their loved ones.

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