‘Saor’ is the Gaelic word for ‘free’ and a new free learning platform SaorEd was launched in Ireland on January 14. Its initial classes include English language, information technology (IT) , healthcare, and career preparation courses. The courses are mostly in English but navigation interfaces are also provided in Arabic and Farsi.
The platform is intended to fill the gaps in existing education and training programs. While free English language classes are provided in Ireland by Education and Training Boards and some NGOs, it can be difficult to get a place on these. Yet language skills are essential for the integration and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees.
Initial language courses provided on SaorEd will include an introduction to the English language, intermediate English for University, English for Arabic speakers, and advanced English for the workplace. The IT Skills study track will cover basic digital skills (in English and Arabic), intermediate IT skills (including a course on ‘Living in a Digital World’), as well as more advanced courses like web design.
Certificates will be provided to learners on completion of one of the online courses. The courses have open access, meaning they are available at any time and in any place.
SaorEd is a collaborative initiative from the NGOs working in Ireland: Doras, New Horizon and Dignity Partnership. It is built on the Kiron online learning platform which has been designed specifically for refugees and underserved communities and is already widely used in the Middle East and Europe.
How do you register?
If you want to study with SaorEd, you need to prove you are a refugee, asylum seeker, internally displaced person or have specific barriers to access higher education. Full details are available on saored.com.
You will be required to upload a document which mentions your status as refugee or asylum seeker or internally displaced person and also has personal details, including your name and date of birth. The document can be from an international organization (UNHCR, IOM, UNRWA or similar), the government of the country where you live now, a government authority or from police.
Refugees who do not have this kind of official documentation are still able to apply. You need to get help from an official representative to fill out the form for you. Examples of representatives that can sign this document are social workers, counselors, legal consultants or camp managers, if, for example, you are living in a refugee camp or emergency accommodation.
Many of the SaorEd study programs are offered exclusively to international protection applicants, with certificates provided to learners on completion.
“We launched SaorEd in an attempt to help bridge the gap in education for people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in Ireland, and especially people living in Direct Provision [Direct Provision is a system of asylum seeker accommodation used in Ireland] who have little access to education,” explained Kerry Elizabeth McCarthy, SaorEd Coordinator, speaking with InfoMigrants. “This situation was definitely exacerbated by Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions imposed on people living in Direct Provision and having to deal with school closures. We have identified specific skills and needs through surveys and test runs to learn what people seeking refuge in Ireland really want to learn.”
McCarthy explains that though the platform is technically open to any refugees and migrants throughout the world, it is specifically targeting those who are based in Ireland. “As the platform is so new and we have seen over 500 learners sign up in a short time, the data is exposing some questions we also have. Technically, a user outside of Ireland can join the platform, but some content is hidden if you have not uploaded your international protection applicant/asylum seeker document. As we approve these manually, it will be people residing in Ireland who see this extra content and can access the certificates for free. Kiron has other platforms for people in Germany, Lebanon, and Jordan also.”
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'Too many obstacles'
John Lannon, chief executive of one of the partner organizations, Doras, said there are “too many obstacles” to education for refugees and asylum seekers.
“Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most marginalized people in Irish society. Those in Direct Provision in particular face huge challenges when it comes to managing their mental health and finding ways to participate in Irish society,” said Lannon.
“Education is a doorway to inclusion, connection, and dignity. It opens up doorways of possibility and opportunity that are so critical for people who are often fleeing war, poverty and persecution. Making education and training accessible is vital. There are currently too many obstacles, which is why SaorEd is so important.”