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In March 2017, ACA member the Institute of International Education (IIE), together with the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education launched its flagship initiative Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (PEER) with the objective of providing refugee and displaced students with a comprehensive resource of education opportunities, scholarships, online and language learning.
What PEER does is as simple as much needed: via a mobile-ready, low-bandwidth database, which is also available in Arabic, it creates a bridge between students and all those opportunities coming from governments, NGOs, foundations and volunteers, enabling students to proceed with their higher education and take ownership of their own lives. This way, the project aims to fill a stark gap between refugee youth and higher education opportunities: data show that only 1% of them have access to higher education (compared to 34% of all youth worldwide).
At its dawn, the project only focused on Syrian students at the university level, who were the ones with the most dramatic proportion of drop-outs due to war: it is estimated that over 200 000 young Syrians have had to interrupt their tertiary education. In its first year, PEER has been able to provide around 600 educational opportunities. Users of the platform are between 24 and 25 years of age, which is a clear sign of their will to reconnect with their studies.
As of 28 May, PEER will not be available for Syrian students only, but it will expand to the ten countries that at present have the highest number of internally or externally displaced population: Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Yemen. IIE sees this as a long-term investment in the development of those countries that are currently affected by wars. This means that in the future, other countries and new opportunities will be included on PEER in order for it to become as much as possible a global resource for education opportunities.