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The pace of change on earth is increasing rapidly. Today, 65 million people are displaced because of violence and natural disasters. Half of them are children without legal status. Many of these children are without a school. However, even without schools and in the midst of chaos, children still learn from their surroundings. Education continues for most displaced children, but what type of education is it?
Most of us in North America went to a public or private school located in a building that was warm and safe. We interacted with our teachers and with other students face-to-face. Our schools were designed and built by adults who cared for us and the future of their society. Our learning didn’t just take place at school, of course. Whether we were playing ball in the back yard or watching Captain Kangaroo on television, we were soaking up information.
We learn in the same ways today, but with some notable differences. Now, the flow of communication is often more persuasive and self-selective than in the past. Through many different platforms, there is an almost unlimited amount of both true and false information from which we can choose.
In the Middle East and in northern Africa, over 98% of families have a satellite television set with hundreds of channels. Although television usage is not as high for displaced families in refugee camps in those areas, we know that most refugees either own a phone or have access to one. Someday soon, every person on earth will have access to the Internet.
As communication devices like smart phones become more plentiful, even the most disadvantaged people groups will experience a wave of new information through these devices. A certain form of education will happen through them, without a traditional school or teacher. At Tent Schools International, we champion actual teachers in physical classrooms, but we also believe that compelling, Christ-centered education should have a presence across various media platforms, including the Internet and TV. Recognizing the growing number of displaced groups in the world today, we want to empower the young people of these populations in a variety of ways. Teaching children and their families how to use interactive communication technology such as computers and smart phones is becoming an important part of bringing education to areas that are difficult to reach.
Our use of technology as an educational tool has an even more important objective – empowering traditional teachers so that they can become even more effective. The right technology in the hands of a teacher in one camp could become a tool for interaction with students in a different camp. Interactive technology can extend a teacher’s reach across the globe into multiple areas of displacement. Having the ability to provide the resources needed to facilitate this sort of teacher-student connection through Tent Schools International is an exciting prospect!
Lastly, Tent Schools International is dedicated to removing unseen barriers to learning for children experiencing PTSD or other debilitating conditions by developing guides and curriculum that will help teachers be as effective as possible in shaping these children of God. Our first guide, Beyond PTSD, releases this month.
One unchanging fact in our world is this: effective education makes a clear and measurable difference in a student’s life because it equips the student with the knowledge of how to operate in society. Quality, Christ-centered schools teach from the perspective that the earth is God’s creation and we learn about God by learning more about the world He created. Teachers in these schools strive to model the character of Jesus, while reflecting the opportunity for a personal relationship with Him.
Tent Schools International, and Worldwide Christian Schools before it, has helped local leaders develop Christ-centered schools for the last 30 years, and the work continues in both old forms and in ways that are new and innovative. Thank you for your part in this mission.
Scott Vander Kooy, President