Making the Grade: USAID Funded Digital Gaming Creates Learning Opportunities for Children in Crises

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Photo Credit: War Child Holland

Since the Syrian civil war broke out, millions of children have suffered from the conflict’s devastating toll on education. Destruction and displacement have thwarted school enrollment, literacy rates, and critical development skills. Twelve-year old Nour and her family fled from Syria at the beginning of the crisis and are now living in a tented settlement in northern Lebanon. Nour was born with a hearing and speech impediment that can make learning difficult, but with the help of digital gaming and partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and War Child Holland (WCH), Nour is continuing to learn.

Five years ago, USAID and WCH began a program aiming to harness the power of technology and creative gaming to develop effective non-formal education learning opportunities for Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese children. This was a multi-partner effort. In addition to USAID, other donors like the IKEA Foundation,, UNICEF and the Dutch Postcode Lottery teamed up with Ministries of Education, technology experts and researchers to develop targeted eLearning solutions in Jordan and Lebanon.

Can’t Wait to Learn is based on games that teach Arabic and mathematics and feature psychosocial and life skills development that are critical to support children in crises. Research results have shown significant improvements for users in mathematics, self- esteem, and psychological symptoms. Nour has already finished the first cycle of the Can’t Wait to Learn mathematics game, with a little help from her brother, Ali, using sign language.

The game has already reached more than 10,000 children, with expectations to reach many more now that efforts are underway in Jordan and Lebanon to continue integrating the game in public schools and nonformal learning centers.

Educators who facilitate Can’t Wait to Learn say that “At the beginning of the program, we asked the kids what they would like to be when they grow up. Now, when you ask them the same question their answers are completely different. They feel like they can do anything.”

“Education is everything in my life,” Nour explains, “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.”