UPDATE: It was announced on July 17 that WISE nominee FESF was awarded the 2018 WISE award detailed below. FESF's approach was recognized by WISE for its tech-based solutions that provide access and improve the quality of education for deaf children in Pakistan. The award ceremony will be held in New York City on Sept. 22nd. NetHope congratulates FESF's commitment and innovation as the recipient of our 2017 Device Challenge grant.
By Lisa Obradovich
NetHope extends its congratulations to one of the 2017 Device Challenge grantees, Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF), on receiving the prestigious World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) finalist nomination for its innovative and impactful approach to today’s most urgent education challenges.
FESF was selected as one of 12 nominees from more than 400 applicants. Since 1995, FESF has focused on improving the lives of over one million deaf children living in Pakistan through the establishment of schools for deaf children, development of Pakistan Sign Language (PSL) resources, and by harnessing the power of digital technologies to transform deaf education.
The literacy rate of Pakistan’s deaf children lags far behind that of their hearing peers due to the scarcity of resources in PSL and trained educators in deaf education. Fewer than 5% of Pakistan’s deaf children attend school and become literate, with the rate even lower for deaf girls. Many are socially marginalized, and lack sufficient skills for future employment and resources to improve their quality of life. The acquisition of language and literacy skills is essential to the personal development, education, and social and economic well-being of deaf children.
NetHope is pleased to support the innovative steps FESF has taken to meet the educational resource needs for deaf children, training and capacity-building resources for teachers, and resources for parents to learn to communicate with their children through the NetHope 2017 Device Challenge Program. In addition to an in-depth online Learning Portal and PSL dictionary, in April 2018, FESF began disseminating low-cost computers loaded with digital PSL learning resources to schools and centers working with deaf children across Pakistan, including remote areas. Hundreds of special education teachers and experts from the public and private sectors have already participated in orientation sessions, and the deployment will continue into the fall.
The PSL learning units have been met with widespread acclaim. Users, educators, and administrators are thrilled that these children now have access to digital learning materials for the first time.
“Up until now, we have been using flashcards and regular school books to teach our deaf students. Without PSL resources, we have not had great success,” notes Ms. Iqbal, vice principal at the National Institute for the Deaf in Gujranwala.
She summed up the many goals of the program by sharing an update on how the 150 deaf students in her school are already benefiting.
“Most of our students come from rural areas where there is a complete absence of educational resources. There is also a stigma attached to the Deaf in rural areas. Parents and caregivers do not have the tools to communicate effectively, and thus the Deaf are excluded and do not gain the confidence in their own ability to learn. With this device, we hope to not only provide these children with the chance of attaining education, but to change the way the very way in which they think about themselves.”
NetHope looks forward to cheering on FESF as the WISE Award winners are announced in mid-July and celebrated in New York in September. To keep up with the latest FESF program updates, visit FESF’s website.
Does the NetHope 2017 Device Challenge inspire you? Read below to learn more and please support this important work with your contribution to NetHope today. Thank you!
The overarching goal of the NetHope 2017 Device Challenge is to put more devices including phones, tablets, PCs, and laptops, into the hands of end users in vulnerable communities via impactful humanitarian and conservation programs. The program was created thanks to a $5.5 million grant award from Google.org, the charitable arm of Google. Grantees were selected from a highly competitive field of over 300 applications and include both NetHope members and other nonprofits.