Real-world learning with Amala Education

Amala education

Real-world learning with Amala Education

Learner-Centered Teaching: UK-based NGO Transforms Education for Refugees Worldwide

The key is to integrate life skills to better prepare refugee youth for the real world

“Our main aim is to develop young refugees’ agency and enable them to become changemakers,” the team from the UK-based nonprofit, Amala told Fugee. Established in 2016, the organization’s co-founders, Mia Eskelund Pederson and Polly Akhurst found many refugees took interest in a prestigious scholarship programme they were developing at the time. 

This is where the sticking point is. Refugee applicants were more often than not unable to receive the scholarship due to a number of institutional barriers. As a result, Amala was born to pave the way for transformational learning programmes at upper secondary education level for refugee youth.

Initiating from Jordan to Kenya 

Jordan has shouldered the impact of hosting over 700,000 refugees, largely from Syria. Kenya, on the other hand, has registered thousands of youth from South Sudan, Somalia and others. Amala found the grave absence of refugee youth completely cut off from accessing national education of refugees aged 16-18 is extremely low in Jordan while only 3%  of the youth have access to secondary education in Kenya. 

After surveying refugee communities in both countries, Amala’s decisions to launch their flagship in Amman, Jordan came first and naturally transitioned to Kakuma, Kenya. “Our three years of experience running short courses in Amman, our connections with local organisations in the city, and the presence of a strong Amala alumni network have therefore made Amman the ideal and prepared location to launch our flagship programme,” Louie Barnett, the Education Lead at Amala told Fugee. 

Fugee leading Social Entrepreneurship


Fugee leading Social Entrepreneurship course with guest speaker South African entrepreneur, Simon Ellis.

Deploying the learner-centric approach 

What makes Amala so unique is their curriculum, contrary to mainstream secondary school subjects like Mathematics and Science, the nonprofit has an element of making each lesson fruitful and pragmatic. Alternatives include “Maths for Change” and “Scientific Informed Action” which merges the general curriculum with real-life applications of theories and practices that many ordinary schools don’t do. 

“If secondary education is not just about preparing students for higher education, but preparing them for life, our courses better prepare refugees for a life they are likely to lead,” Barnett said, adding that the value of being transition-ready for university education and beyond is by building competencies, taking leading responsibilities and managing complex situations in all walks of life. 

Overcoming challenges with local partnerships 

While Amala implements a “blending learning program” – a combination of online and offline studying, refugee youth require more support in gaining access to devices that allow online programs to take place. Having stable internet connections and access to usable laptops for work is more important than ever especially in a year of near-total lockdown. 

This is where community-based organizations in the respective countries step in, so facilitators on the ground who are well-aware of host communities can figure out solutions more effectively. 

For instance, in October, Amala joined forces with Fugee to carry out a 10-week pilot of their Social Entrepreneurship and Ethical Leadership programs here in Kuala Lumpur for refugee students from Somalia and Pakistan. Because all classes are forced to go virtual, the issue of completing tasks cropped up. Immediately addressing the problem, Fugee facilitators introduced a points system in place to positively reinforce students on submitting homework and maintaining engagement during class. 

Now, participation is better than ever.

Amala Education Classes

Amala Education Classes

Bringing transformative learning to Malaysia 

“Running Amala programmes in Malaysia would not have been possible without our grant from the Allen & Overy Foundation, and of course, our partnership with Fugee,” Barnett said. 

Over a quarter of the refugee children in Malaysia are under 18 and out of school. Knowing that, Amala is seeking to implement their “context-inclusive” programmes in Malaysia through piloting two courses with Fugee.

“A number of the opportunities we are opening up for further education and training for our students are on a global basis, for example online higher education programmes.” Barnett explains, also mentioning that they are in the “first stages of working towards international accreditation of the programme, which will support students with further opportunities.” 

Our values and goals are seamlessly aligned and we’re on par to take this partnership to the next level to grant myriad opportunities to refugee students and open doors to securely successful futures. 

To read more about Amala’s groundbreaking work, visit their website: here

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