Norway launches innovative learning games for children affected by war and crisis

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Norway has launched a new development tool that makes it possible for children to learn to read in areas where schools have been bombed and teachers and families have been forced to flee. With the help of some of the world’s tech giants, Norway has developed two game-based learning apps that can be used anywhere.

An estimated 2.5 million Syrian children are not able to attend school because of the armed conflict. Education opportunities for a great many Syrian children and young people are extremely poor, both for those who are still in Syria and for those who have fled to other countries. 

‘We must apply modern technology in new ways to ensure the right to education for all children. As most Syrian families have smartphones, these games have the potential to reach millions of children whose native language is Arabic. In the long term, similar games may be used to help children in other parts of the world who are not able to go to school,’ Prime Minister Erna Solberg said. 

Last week she invited Syrian children who had fled from Aleppo to test the games in her official residence, together with Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Foreign Minister Børge Brende. They share an engagement in innovation, children and education, and have kept abreast of developments in the EduApp4Syria project. The games have been tested by Syrian children in Jordan and Lebanon, countries that are hosting several million Syrian refugees, and where the educational capacity has been stretched beyond its limits. 

‘The conflict in Syria has now entered its seventh year. Intense efforts are being made to rebuild schools and establish temporary education opportunities. But the destruction is so extensive and the needs are so great that supplementary measures are necessary to sustain the learning process. Once children can use game-based apps to learn to read, that opens the doors for all other learning. Many of these children have also been traumatised. Learning through games makes it easier for them to achieve a sense of mastery and to acquire skills,’ said Foreign Minister Børge Brende. 

The winning games, Feed the Monster and Antura, were launched today at an event led by Laila Bokhari, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at Mobile Learning Week in Paris.

‘From here on we will cooperate with the UN, aid organisations, technology companies and active gamers to spread awareness of these games and to ensure that they are used, both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries. We will evaluate how well they work, and then assess whether they should be developed in other languages and for other humanitarian crises,’ said Mr Brende.

The games have been developed through an international competition led by Norad together with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and in partnership with All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, the mobile operator Orange and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE). The EduApp4Syria project is part of the Government’s global education efforts. Approximately 20 % of Norway’s aid for the Syrian crisis, which totalled NOK 2.7 billion in 2016, has been allocated to education.

The games Feed the Monster and Antura can be downloaded for free from  Google Play and the App Store, and can then be used without access to the internet.

Press photos are available here.

Further information can be found on Norad’s website: www.norad.no/eduapp4syria