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Sarah Khalil

Reading app launched in Lebanon to reach out-of-school Syrians

"Antura and the Letters" aims to educated Syrian refugee children [Wixel Studios]

Date of publication: 26 May, 2017

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Beirut-based software producers Wixel Studios have launched an Arabic-language smartphone application to help educate Syrian refugee children currently out of school.
A Beirut-based software studio has launched a new Arabic language app to help educate some of the 2.7 million Syrian children currently out of school in the region.

"Antura and the Letters", a production of Wixel Studios, Cologne Game Lab and Video Games without Borders, was designed to be the first smartphone application with the primary aim of educating Syrian refugee children.

The central character of the app is Antura, a friendly and furry yellow and blue dog, who acts as companion to children on a journey to discover the Arabic alphabet, as well as its vocabulary and grammar.

"Each step focuses on a specific pedagogic objective and then reinforces the learning with an assessment activity," Wixel Studios said in a statement introducing the app.

"The game rewards the player at each step with items to customise the dog Antura that escorts him/her on their journey to literacy."

The app, which targets children between the ages of 5 to 10, requires no internet access after download.

Zaid Feghali, the app's developer, told The New Arab that children who have played the game so far have found it user friendly.

"The majority of children starting the game get on board really easily," he said.

"The game reviews have been very positive and we have had really high ratings on both Apple and Google stores," he told The New Arab.

Despite being launched specifically for Syrian refugee children, Feghali said the app has proved a hit with many across the region.

"We are getting users from the MENA region and the Arabic diaspora as well."

Lebanon's Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh praised the app during its launch on May 9, adding that he believes it will help combat illiteracy.

"This is the beginning of a new era in education," said Hamadeh, according to Lebanon's The Daily Star. "We must captivate the attention of children who are outside school and take them on a path to literacy."

More than 30 percent of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are currently out of school, according to the Brussels Conference Education report, released last month.

There are currently 1.01 million Syrians registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, although the Lebanese government believes there are around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country.

According to UNICEF, 2.7 million Syrian children are currently out of school, living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

"Of course apps cannot replace formal education," Salam al-Janbi, a communication specialist with UNICEF, told The Daily Star.

"However, they can at least keep children occupied in a meaningful way until they go to school."

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