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Empowering disadvantaged communities through innovative education

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Kiron Open Higher Education from Germany and Jaago Foundation from Bangladesh have won the 2016 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Education for their innovative and inspiring projects.

They each received USD 25,000 each and a certificate of recognition at a ceremony that took place at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris on 21 February 2017 in the presence of the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa and the Minister of Education H.E. Majid Bin Ali Al-Nuaimi.

The laureates presented their prize-winning projects on the use of ICTs for disadvantaged groups in a seminar before the ceremony. The theme for the 2016 Prize recognizes the urgent need to tackle challenges that prevent the most vulnerable populations from accessing quality education.

Making the digital revolution an inclusive one

The experience of meeting a refugee during university is what motivated Markus Kressler, founder of Kiron, to start his project in Germany. Kiron is an innovative blended-learning education platform that provides free, fast and easy access to higher education for refugees worldwide regardless of their asylum status. It is tailored to overcome the key challenges -- legal, linguistic, financial and skills -- that hold back displaced persons from education. “Kiron is a connecting organization,” said Mr. Kressler. His project’s mission is to help create a world where everyone has an equal chance to opportunities.

Korvi Rakshand, founder of Jaago (which means “wake up” in Bangladeshi) said that poverty was the biggest obstacle to accessing learning and opportunities in his country. The Dhaka-based foundation is a movement initiated by youth to break the cycle of poverty through quality education and reach those in the most remote locations. The Online School project connects underprivileged children in rural areas of Bangladesh with high-quality courses through interactive video-conferencing delivered by teachers based in the capital. Mr Rakshand demonstrated his programme by connecting live with a classroom full of students in Bangladesh.

Speaking at the prize ceremony Ms Bokova said; “Education stands at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda, as a human right, as a transformational force for sustainability, for poverty, eradication, for peace.”

“We encourage other institutions to follow the winners’ example to invest in modern technologies in education to empower underprivileged people across the globe,” said H.E. Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa.

About the prize

Established in 2005, the UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize recognizes innovations in teaching and learning that leverage technology to improve educational outcomes. Two prizewinners are selected by the Director-General of UNESCO after recommendations made by an international jury of five independent and recognized experts in the area of ICT in education from each region.