BEIRUT: Learning-oriented startup Tabshoura has received one of three startup World Summit Awards given in Lebanon for 2018, it was announced Friday.
The WSA are prestigious international awards that select “local digital innovation with high impact on improving society.” Out of forty awards, twenty-six countries and thirteen categories, Lebanon made three places in three different categories. Lebanon, along with Spain and Kenya, were the only countries to be presented with three awards.
Tabshoura, Arabic for “chalk”, is a program initiated by Lebanese Alternative Learning (LAL), and was selected as a winner under the category of Inclusion and Empowerment for developing a digitized version of the Lebanese curriculum available in Arabic, English and French.
The program is contained in “DrosBox”, a palm-sized web-server based on the Rapberry Pi model. The server functions like a Wi-Fi hotspot and can connect up to thirty computers to share its contents, without Internet connection.
Speaking for LAL at BDD were Patrick Habib and Yorgui Beylouni, the two tech prodigies behind DrosBox. The project was funded thanks to MIT’s Refugee Learning Accelerator.
Tabshoura is free to download and use, and is especially appropriate for educational centers in remote or vulnerable areas in Lebanon. LAL have experts from the Ministry of Education reviewing their content. DrosBox came about in an attempt problem of unreliability and costliness of Internet in Lebanon.
Dr. Nayla Fahed, co-founder of LAL says they are “working mainly with vulnerable populations, displaced refugee populations.”
“You would be surprised to know how many schools and tented facilities have computers, but nobody uses them because they do not have Internet,” she told Annahar.
Fahed, a professor of Education at USJ and Naji Ghorra, an e-learning specialist, started the LAL university-based project to help ill students under long-term treatments keep up with school work from the hospital. The NGO was officially incepted in 2014, with the aim of developing digital learning resources.
“The objective is to support out of school and in-school children struggling to keep up with school with relevant digital resources, aligned with the Lebanese curriculum” said Fahed. “We innovate in solution, but we also innovate in pedagogy by building a completely interactive way of learning.”
An initiative like this one has the potential to democratize accessibility to education in Lebanon. Their biggest challenge, however, is sustainability, “you are a small NGO and you have no support from the government, even though you have international recognition.”
Currently, Tabshoura is in a scaling phase, hoping to expand the application of their technology regionally and internationally. They aim to make the whole curriculum contained by Tabshoura available for public schools in Lebanon after the evaluation process, while KG content will be given to public schools in a month.
In 2017, LAL also won the UN Equals in Tech Award for Tabshoura for developing relevant content and access solutions.
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