There are no financial barriers for students to participate in Kiron, just “effort barriers,” says the nonprofit startup’s CEO, Vincent Zimmer.
Applicants must take an English-language assessment, write an essay explaining their motivation and show documentation of their refugee status, he explains.
This process was easy, Hadi Althib, a 23-year-old Syrian living in Turkey, tells the Heureka in a Skype interview.
Since August 2016, Althib has been using Kiron, an education platform that lets students study remotely for two years – free of charge – while going through the time-consuming and bureaucratic asylum process.
He says the courses are “very modern” and “provide a lot of context.”
Plus, it is convenient to do while working. When not studying, Althib spends much of his timing working on the ME/WE storytelling program. But he is disciplined about scheduling time to do the courses – roughly eight hours per week – alongside his other commitments.
What he learns on Kiron he uses “on the ground,” he says. Through ME/WE, the Damascus-native works with youth, focusing on non-violent communication. Kiron makes his work more professional and helps him impact hundreds of people, he says.
The coursework Althib is doing is part of Kiron’s social work track. The Berlin-based startup offers five: business and economics, computer science, mechanical engineering, social work and political sciences.
After completing the preliminary coursework, Althib may apply to finish his studies at one of Kiron’s 41 partner university. And all of his completed online courses can be used to gain credits at the respective partner university.
His plan is to go for a Master’s in Social Psychology or Conflict Resolution.
Flexibility is what makes Kiron useful for all refugees, regardless of whether economically disadvantaged, internally displaced or in the country illegally, Zimmer tells the Heureka.
Hadi agrees: The interactive and practical elements of Kiron gives refugees some stability, he says. He has even gone to recruit other people he knows to try it out: “Anyone [with a refugee background] can be in Kiron and we strongly need this kind of education. It builds bridges, and is also a kind of peacekeeping.”
The majority of Kiron’s students originally come from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
Zimmer shares that there are 2,300 students registered the platform, but not how many are currently actively working towards a degree. And since Kiron coursework takes around two years, the platform’s first students will be finishing their coursework and moving to a partner university in the coming years.
The startup, which also offers mentoring services and career planning, is supported by a variety of organizations, including the German Ministry of Education and Research, Volkswagen AG and the Schöpflin Stiftung.