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Online Platform SaorEd Offers Free Courses to Migrants and Refugees in Limerick

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SaorEd is a collaborative initiative between three Irish non-profit organisations; Limerick-based Doras, New Horizon, and Dignity Partnership. Pictured above is John  Lannon, Doras CEO. Picture: Rachel Petticrew/ilovelimerick

Online Platform SaorEd Offers Free Courses to Migrants and Refugees in Limerick

SaorEd It is built on the Kiron online learning platform which has been designed specifically for refugees and underserved communities

It is built on the Kiron online learning platform which has been designed specifically for refugees and underserved communities

A new online platform that provides free access to education and training courses for people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in County Limerick and throughout Ireland has been launched. SaorEd is a collaborative initiative between three Irish non-profit organisations; Limerick-based 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.

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, healthcare, and career preparation courses. The courses on offer are mostly in English, with some in Arabic. Navigation interfaces are available in Arabic and Farsi and those behind the venture hope to expand the range of courses and languages on offer.

SaorEd is intended to fill the gaps in existing education and training programmes. While free English language classes are provided by the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and others, for example, places on these are often difficult to obtain. Yet, language skills are essential for the integration and wellbeing of protection applicants and refugees.

Initial language courses provided on SaorEd 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 with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

SaorEd provides study programs using open online courses (MOOCs) from reputable education providers. The initial offerings are based on a survey of over 100 people who are in or have transitioned out of Direct Provision. Over the coming months, the platform will be extended to include courses in other areas that will help open pathways to employment and further education.

John  Lannon, Doras CEO said “It is difficult for people living in remote areas, particularly Direct Provision centres, to access regular transport to attend in-person training. SaorEd can provide pathways to further education and employment for them.The platform is also of value to parents of young children who may not be able to access mainstream education during the day. It is also accessible to people who face financial barriers to education, who may not be entitled to the Back to Education Allowance, for example.”

Many of the SaorEd study programmes are offered exclusively to international protection applicants, with certificates provided to learners on completion. By providing open access to online learning opportunities, it ensures that free education is available at any time, in any place to underserved communities.

John Lannon of Doras said, “Refugees and Asylum Seekers are among the most marginalised 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. 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 important. The level of interest in it has already taken us by surprise and the potential is exciting. We are hoping that funders and partners come on board to join us to help build this exciting platform”.

Rosemary Kunene of Dignity Partnership commented, “Education is the key to unlocking talents. Empowering people through education is one of the best investments for the future. SaorEd is a tool for social change that is needed to promote educational inclusion for people from a refugee and asylum-seeking background”.

Gerry Callaghan of New Horizon added, “SaorEd is an opportunity for people to access learning opportunities that may otherwise not be open to them due to cost, distance, childcare or language barriers.

The refugee and asylum seeker community puts an incredible value on educational opportunities. I recall many years ago when a busload of Asylum Seekers arrived into Athlone into a bleak site of 100 mobile homes with just an industrial canteen and rain-swept tarmac. I distinctly recall people’s main concern was schooling for their children and I was struck by what a priority education was for people who value the opportunity to learn, grow and contribute”.

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For more stories on Doras go HERE 

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the ilovelimerick.com concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.

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