A-Academy: a digital learning platform for the refugee camp

Labour market insertion, Initial vocational education and training
11.03.2021
According to a survey from 2018, 85% of Kenyans aged 15 and older can read and write in at least one language versus only 40 % of those in Turkana County, the second-largest county where the Kakuma Refugee Camp is located. Similarly, literacy levels of the refugees fall between the national and Turkana county averages. Both in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and in the host community in the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement there is a demand for basic literacy and numeracy skills. Swisscontact identified this need and carefully developed a customised e-learning platform in partnership with Avallain Foundation to fill the literacy gap.

The aim of the digital platform is to promote the literacy and numeracy skills of people living in the refugee camp and the camp’s host community, thus helping to improve their livelihoods. These skills should make it easier for them to access income-generating opportunities and venture into diverse business activities and strengthen the interaction between clients and business owners.

The platform entitled a-Academy incorporates an embedded literacy approach as the curriculum development was localised to the context and adapted to the learning conditions of both the host and refugee communities. The local adaptation is demonstrated in the platform’s use of local names and experiences relevant to the lives of the resident population. A variety of multimedia elements including audio, video, animation and pictures make the content meaningful, relatable and engaging. Many of the images incorporated were specifically designed to complement the diverse activities of everyday living and enhance effective learning. The animations also visualise processes and abstract concepts vividly. 

Snapshot of the a-Academy platform
In this learning activity of the literacy app, the terms are assigned to the pictures by connecting lines. 
In the numeracy app, tasks are also illustrated in the context of the topic ‘Food and Nutrition’.
Demonstration of Health and Hygiene ‘drag and drop’ activity in the numeracy app

Topics tailored to the everyday life of the learners

The a-Academy platform was designed to cover four main areas of interest for the learners, namely: Food and Nutrition, Health and Hygiene, Money and Business, and Internet and Devices. Learners are guided through thematically relevant situations in which the learning objectives are presented in direct relation to the users’ needs. The platform is available both online and offline. This way, learners can increase their knowledge even when they do not have internet access.

The platform allows learners to use various interactive options during sessions and to test and view their learning progress after each lesson.

Adult learners concentrating in class
Areas of interest for learners

Skills to improve the livelihood

In 2007, Samira Mohamed arrived at the Kakuma Refugee Camp with her husband and three children after fleeing political unrest in Sudan. Samira had not gone through formal education and could neither read nor write. She could only express herself verbally in Arabic and had no understanding of basic English. This posed as a major challenge since different local dialects are spoken in the refugee camp, and English is commonly used in everyday life.  

With time, Samira’s family grew to a household of eight. As her children enrolled in school, Samira became aware that she needed to support her husband in generating extra income to meet their family needs. They decided to open a small retail shop. Samira was responsible for managing the shop while her husband tried his luck with other casual jobs. As she was not able to communicate easily with her clients and could not keep proper records, running the shop soon became a challenge. Every evening, Samira would ask her children for their help in reconciling the accounting books. She started realising the business was struggling to make profits due to her poor knowledge of record-keeping.  

Learning never stops for Samira

One day a friend told Samira about literacy and numeracy training being offered by Swisscontact. Samira quickly identified this as a great opportunity to learn basic skills in reading and writing, hoping this would help her operate the shop profitably. She enrolled for the three-month training in May 2018. The blended training used both the digital learning platform and a conventional learning set-up. Samira learnt how to write her name, apply basic numeracy, note down her costs and communicate in English. 

Samira Mohamed using the e-learning platform

“I never imagined I would use a computer in my life. I loved that the training used both pictures and audio of everyday things. It was like they came to my shop and saw what I was selling and put the pictures in the lesson guide. I now know how to add up my sales and deduct my expenses. My children [needn’t help me keep records anymore and] can now enjoy their evenings in peace.” 

Before attending the training, Samira made an average of CHF 160 per month from sales in her shop. After the training, her income increased by 67% to CHF 267. 

Samira Mohamed

“I would not be where I am today without learning basic English and arithmetic. My communication skills have greatly improved, and I am now able to attract more clients, attend to them professionally and maintain a cordial relationship. I have now enrolled in an intermediary adult class to further my studies.”

The Skills for Life project is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation SDC and implemented by Swisscontact in Kenya.