American University of Beirut

Students from vulnerable communities in Lebanon graduate with digital skills from AUB

​​​​​​​​​Sally Abou Melhem <> Office of Communications​

Four cohorts including 500 students from Saida, Aley, Beqaa, and Tripoli graduated from the Digital Skills Training Program  at AUB.  The program is a collaboration between the World Food Programme (WFP) and AUB through its Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) as well as local partner NGOs Kayany Foundation, Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) and Ruwwad, and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The digital skills training program has been running in Lebanon since 2016. The program is designed to promote social, educational, and economic inclusion. It equips Syrian refugee and Lebanese youth from marginalized communities with the hard and soft skills they need to participate in the growing online economy. The curriculum aims to connect participants between the ages of 18 and 35 to new career tracks in high-tech industries, as well as other economic sectors adapting to fast technological change.

Top students of the program are invited to come back as teaching assistants and workshop facilitators. The successful first pilot project for 100 students on AUB campus in fall 2016 led to new partners and increased support. The program is now offered nationwide, reaching more than 2200 participants from Lebanon's most vulnerable communities.  WFP is implementing a sister program in Iraq utilizing the curriculum developed by AUB.

The vocational courses are designed by AUB experts from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Department of Computer Science and University Preparatory Program and taught by local instructors under their supervision.  The modular curriculum spanning 12 weeks bridges the digital divide covering all aspects of computer literacy.  Advanced courses cover web design and data science. Throughout the program, students also receive intensive English instruction and soft skills workshops.​

The graduation ceremony

The graduation ceremony took place at AUB's Assembly Hall and was attended by Dr. Fadlo Khuri, president of AUB; Dr. Mohamed Harajli, AUB provost; CCECS Director Rabih Shibli; H.E. Dr. Georg Birgelen, ambassador of Germany; WFP Representative and Lebanon Country Director Abdallah Alwardat; and representatives of the program's local NGO partners, in addition to members of the AUB community and graduating students.

President Khuri delivered AUB's keynote speech. “Every educational journey is founded on challenges that must be overcome," said Khuri in his remarks. He commended the graduates of the Digital Skills Program for overcoming some of life's greatest challenges, as many of their lives have been disrupted by conflict and displacement just at the time they should have been given the space and support to start building happy, productive adult lives. He added that these graduates did not give in to despair or depression, and looked for opportunities to create a more secure future. “AUB is proud of you and proud to be part of your journeys to overcome life's toughest challenges." Khuri concluded, “We want you to go out and show the world how, when given the right support, the young people of this region can turn hardship into hope."

“The program changed my views and perspectives toward many things. Throughout th​ese nine months, I was able to interact with fellow Lebanese participants and my ideas about them changed as well as thei​r ideas about us changed, we became one and the program helped us understand that we can live together and we are the same: brothers and sisters in the tech world."

--Ahmad Al Hamwi, 20-year-old Syrian and graduate of the program​

WFP Representative and Country Director Abdallah Alwardat also addressed the audience during the ceremony. “In today's world, digital skills are life skills," he explained. “Many of the youth affected by the Syrian crisis are becoming increasingly disenchanted. Opportunities like these provide hope for those and bridge strained community tensions."

“Creativity and innovation are key to a better future," said Ambassador Birgelen as he congratulated the graduates at the event. “Germany invests in young people to help promote economic development, employment and sustainable growth, and ultimately to reduce poverty."

The ceremony ended with the distribution of 30 diplomas by the German ambassador, and a group photo in front of AUB's Main Gate.

Following the graduation ceremony, the German ambassador opened and walked through the Opportunities Fair, where 15 organizations, scholarship providers, and members of the tech ecosystem in Lebanon met with graduates to connect them with potential internships, trainings, scholarships, and jobs as appropriate.

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