A new online platform which provides free access to education and training courses for people with a refugee and migrant background in Laois and across Ireland has been launched.
SaorEd is a collaborative initiative between three Irish non-profit organisations; Dignity Partnership based in Laois, Doras and New Horizon. It is built on the Kiron e-learning platform which was designed specifically for refugees and underserved communities and is already widely used in the Middle East and Europe.
SaorEd aims to provide free access to a range of entry-level and advanced courses. Initial offerings include English language courses, information technology (IT) skills, health care and career preparation courses. The courses offered are mainly in English, with some in Arabic. Navigation interfaces are available in Arabic and Farsi, and the company’s creators hope to expand the range of courses and languages offered.
SaorEd aims to fill the gaps in existing education and training programs. While free English lessons are offered by the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and others, for example, places are often hard to come by. Yet language skills are essential for the integration and well-being of protection seekers and refugees.
Rosemary Kunene of Laois-based Dignity Partnership says the initiative has huge potential.
“Education is the key to unleashing talent. Empowering people through education is one of the best investments for the future. SaorEd is a tool for social change needed to promote the educational inclusion of people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds,” she said.
SaorEd offers study programs using open online courses (MOOCs) from reputable education providers. The initial offers are based on a survey of over 100 people who are in or have left Direct Provision. Over the coming months, the platform will be expanded to include courses in other areas that will help open pathways to employment and further education.
John Lannon, CEO of Doras, said: “It is difficult for people living in remote areas, especially direct supply centers, to access regular transport to attend in-person training. SaorEd can provide them with pathways to continuing education and employment. The platform is also useful for parents of young children who may not be able to access mainstream education during the day. It is also available to people facing financial barriers to education, who may not qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, for example.
“Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most marginalized people in Irish society. Those on direct provision in particular face enormous challenges when it comes to managing their mental health and finding ways to participate in Irish society. Education is a doorway to inclusion, connection and dignity. It opens doors of possibilities and opportunities that are so critical for people who often flee war, poverty and persecution. Making education and training accessible is vital. There are currently too many obstacles, which is why SaorEd is important. The level of interest in it has already taken us by surprise and the potential is exciting. We hope funders and partners will join us to help build this exciting platform.”
Many SaorEd study programs are offered exclusively to applicants for international protection, with certificates issued to learners upon completion. By providing open access to online learning opportunities, it ensures that free education is available anytime, anywhere to underserved communities.
For more information, visit www.saored.com