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Children love to learn. If they are denied access to knowledge, we also deny them the opportunity to change their lives for the better.


How Innovation is Key to Solving the Education Crisis Among Newly Displaced Afghan Children

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Education Above All is the first foundation that has adapted one of its most innovative educational tools to the needs of newly refugeed Afghan children under its Innovation Development (ID) programme. EAA’s communications specialist, Kevin Donohue, sat down with ID Director, Janhvi Kanoria, to talk about how this tool, known as IFERB, has now been custom made for Afghan refugee learners. Janvhi explains how IFERB is a brand-new way to help children in emergency situations, and EAA was able to develop it by re-imagining education, especially for the world’s most marginalized in an age of pandemics, conflict and insecurity.

KD: Janhvi, I imagine you’ve been quite busy with the IFERB. Can you explain what is IFERB?

JK: The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to rely on distance learning. But the reality is that for the majority of students worldwide, access to the internet, to computers and to tablets, is a luxury they cannot afford. We at EAA realised this early on, and that’s when we decided to invest in accessible, useful and tailor-made distant learning for all; and so began IFERB, or the Internet Free Education Resource Bank.

IFERB is a bank of resources EAA designed for NGOs, schools, educators, parents and students in global households that are not digitally connected, in homes with limited resources, or whose caregivers may be illiterate or unable to help them with their studies. IFERB is a whole approach as well, that focuses on relevant project-based and activity-based learning. When we implement with partners, we also offer training and work with them to adapt the resources to be relevant at a local level, and we offer them guides and help them with implementation. We even provide parents with tools to monitor the progress of their children for themselves. This is how you get sustainability on the ground and earn buy-in.

Teachers in Kenya’s Dignitas project distributing IFERB learning materials to parents

Teachers in Kenya’s Dignitas project distributing IFERB learning materials to parents

KD: How does IFERB do this?

JK: It does so by making the content available in 9 languages including Arabic, French, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Assamese, Punjabi, Tami, Urdu, Swahili, English, Pashto and Dari. It integrates socio-emotional learning (SEL) with practical skills and traditional subjects such as math and geography. All a child needs is a print-out of the material, paper, pencils, and eraser, and they are ready to learn. The educational experience is intuitive and simple enough for parents and teachers anywhere to implement it.

KD: You brought up socio-emotional learning, why is that important?

JK: A lot of the children we work with have been through huge and potentially traumatic changes in their lives and they don’t have the tools to process them. This can negatively impact their abilities to learn, socialise and deal with their situation, whether that be Covid-19 related school closures and disruptions to their daily routines or having to flee their homes due to conflict.

Newly refugeed Afghan children in Qatar are benefitting from Social Emotional Learning activities included in the specially tailored Emergency Education Packages

Newly refugeed Afghan children in Qatar are benefitting from Social Emotional Learning activities included in the specially tailored Emergency Education Packages

For kids experiencing that level of trauma, education takes on a different meaning. It’s about thriving in their circumstances and developing hope and optimism to tie them over during this crisis. SEL helps them with emotional regulation and the ability to bond with each other and creates an element of fun and happiness in their context. If that is missing, how can refugees have the resilience needed to deal with such situations and to integrate into their host communities afterwards?

Let me give you the example of our ‘Color Clouds’ Learning activity. Developed in collaboration with the Amal Alliance and Dream a Dream foundation, it teaches children to communicate better, to be mindful and to learn about the world around them. For example, one of the projects, “Draw Misunderstanding”, has two children sitting back-to-back. One child is asked to draw the object the other is describing. It’s a fun and engaging way to practice communicating and listening, and they’ll often share a laugh at the resulting artwork!

SEL activities help to enhance social-emotional competencies and foster wellbeing.

SEL activities help to enhance social-emotional competencies and foster wellbeing.

KD: UNHCR projects that half a million Afghans may try to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2021, how can IFERB be used to help children who have, or may become, refugees?

JK: Crises, like what we are seeing with Afghan refugees, can quickly turn to tragedy if basic human needs are not met. Often times, education becomes secondary to shelter, food and security, but it doesn’t have to be that way. IFERB can, and is as we speak, being quickly adapted and rolled out to ensure that Afghan children with minimal or no access to the digital world can continue to learn.

We recently worked with four amazing Afghan women who, just days before we met them had been forced to leave their lives in Afghanistan behind. This didn’t stop them from translating our learning packs into Dari and Pashto for displaced Afghan learners. We’ve since begun working on two more months of learning modules, all of which are adapted to the specific needs of Afghan refugee learners and are free to download from our website.

This Emergency Education Package, moves beyond bridging the digital divide and into bridging the cultural divide facing the growing number of Afghan boys and girls. For instance, some of the boys and girls we spoke to didn’t even know what country they were in. How can we expect children to acclimatise to a new environment, start learning again, and create those positive relationships that we know are so important to their development, let alone process the trauma they’ve been through, if they don’t even know where they are?

The Social and Emotional (SEL) Learning Package is month-long programme designed for learners between the ages of 6 and 14 years. It is based on the award-winning Colors of Kindness Program designed by the Amal Alliance and the IFERB by EAA.

The Social and Emotional (SEL) Learning Package is month-long programme designed for learners between the ages of 6 and 14 years. It is based on the award-winning Colors of Kindness Program designed by the Amal Alliance and the IFERB by EAA.

We developed a module called ‘Know your host country’. It includes projects like ‘pop-up restaurant’, where learners are asked to identify and make a local dish from their host country. Through this activity, children have to do a survey about who likes what dish, price out the ingredients in the local currency, make the meal and then serve it. So just by playing restaurant, this child goes through an integrated learning experience that combines cultural knowledge, communication, arithmetic and more, in a localised context and in a fun and engaging way.

What we saw in some of our other IFERB projects, was that for some of the boys, it was the first time that they had ever entered a kitchen in their entire lives. Can you imagine? The first time they recognised what their mothers do. They began to understand that their mothers, who in many cases are illiterate, understand the cost of every ingredient and it changes the gender dynamic.

KD: And how is such an approach changing the lives of Afghan children?

JK: We’re still at the early stages of the rollout and we are in talks with partners to reach as many displaced Afghan learners as possible. The goal is really to help ease their transition and bridge them towards more formal learning in their new host countries. But your question immediately makes me think of how IFERB is changing the lives of children across our other projects, such as Laiba, a 12-year-old girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She was set to be married, until our partner, The British Council, organised an IFERB orientation session and brought together parents and children affected by school closures. This orientation helped Laiba’s parents understand and see how IFERB is adapted to their particular context and how such learning can benefit their daughter. Laiba was enrolled in the IFERB programme and with the help of her mother, she completed 12 projects over a span of 3 months.

The breakthrough for Laiba happened because IFERB creates an educational interaction between a child and their parents that doesn’t usually happen in such rural, conservative communities. For example, when doing the family tree project, Laiba was asking her mother questions about extended family members, genetics, migration and geography. As a result, Laiba’s mother got to know Laiba better, and she realised that her daughter was gifted academically.

This created such a profound shift in the family. Laiba’s mother was convinced that her daughter didn’t have to follow the path of so many other young girls by getting married off young and has taken a stand to ensure her daughter completes her education and has a more stable and financially secure future.

KD: As the director of this programme, what are you most proud of?

KD: The sustained change this programme has achieved. What was initially designed as a stop-gap solution is a real tangible innovation to bridge the digital divide by keeping kids learning and using education to help some of the world’s most marginalised cope with their surroundings.

We’ve had a 90% satisfaction rate and the bank has become the go-to site for ready-to-download and free to use educational materials for all screen and resource free learning between the ages of four and 14. The response from our partners has been incredible. We’ve had partners reach out to contribute to, adapt and implement IFERB with other refugee populations, and almost two years on, the IFERB has supported the learning of almost half a million children around the world. IFERB learning materials have been downloaded over 35 thousand times in 130 countries.

The whole world is waiting for the pandemic to end, while at the same time wondering what the next disaster will bring and how we will get through it. The idea that we can’t continue to do things in the same way is overwhelming for most, I mean, where do we even start. For us at EAA and for our partners, it starts with education. 75 million learners have their education disrupted annually due to armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change induced disasters, and protracted crises. At the same time, close to half of households globally don’t have access to the digital world, and therefore internet-based learning. The IFERB approach and resources can provide that critical bridge by ensuring learning continues for all, irrespective of where they fall on the digital divide, and by extension, the socio-economic divide. I would say that this is a good start for those of us in the international community who are committed to building back better after Covid-19, and I am especially proud of the role that EAA is playing, through our IFERB, in showing how we can do this and unlock the transformative power of educaction.


"Humanity will not overcome the immense challenges we face unless we ensure that children get the quality education that equips them to play their part in the modern world." -- HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser


14.5 million

enrolment commitments for OOSC




retention rate


Teachers trained


schools and classrooms