Meet The Unlimited: Rafik Amrani
Global change-making amidst a pandemic and political turmoil
I am Rafik Amrani, a 20-year-old Algerian change-maker seeking a bachelor’s in business administration at the American University of Beirut with a minor in Computer Science. My vision is to modernize the Algerian educational system by changing what and how students are being taught.
To understand better the challenges presented at hand in times of pandemic, we need to jump back to 3 years ago. It was 2017, in Algeria when I started “Beyond Tekhmamek” as an organization with modernizing education being the mission, introducing 21st-century skills such as soft-skills along with modern STEM curriculums. The challenges we faced at that time included developing curriculums, creating a network of supporting schools, and advocacy at the policy-making level. Fast forward to February 2019, a popular revolution starts in Algeria disrupting the routine. New challenges and constraints emerged to which we have responded and adapted to. Furthermore, we have expanded our operations geographically to reach Lebanon by September 2019. Challenges specific to the Lebanese educational background have found their way into our agenda. No more than 2 months later, a revolution very similar to the Algerian erupted, creating more challenges that we needed to face.
Further in time, a pandemic hit the world accompanied by a lack of information and very little to no preparation for such scenarios. As global changemakers, our work did not stop evolving into an increasingly challenging environment, especially in these two regions where the health sector is not the sharpest nor the most pandemic-ready. We have doubled our efforts with the support of local and international NGOs towards one common goal: Accompany the youth in these trying times. Be it information campaigns, online psychological sessions to even programming and electronics sessions we held all online. We carried out this task with the most care we could have as it has been a stressful time for the youth as well as us mentors/teachers/trainers. Life took a new turn, no more in-person working session with our students, relying completely on online methods. This has brought up a new challenge: Technology readiness of the 6-14 years old. Throughout our online sessions, we have noticed that most of the young participants do not master IT skills such as joining an online meeting, sharing their screen, using accounts to log in, and having secure passwords.
With this in mind, we, “Beyond Tekhmamek”, decided to take things in hand and go overcome the new challenges. First, regarding the IT skills, we have developed a new curriculum themed around safety on the web including how to sniff out phishing attempts, how to have a secure password, how to navigate the web safely overall. Second, local NGOs, with the participation of psychiatrists, have held online meetings with youth mostly teenagers to discuss mental health and get over the stigma around the subject as it is still not a subject that you can have a candid conversation about in my community. Last but not least, we have noticed that many of these youth found themselves with a lot of free time on their hands with not much to do. After conducting surveys and meetings with stakeholders, we have figured out that most of the youth are unable to innovate, create, or develop. We have decided to design another curriculum that aims at teaching how to innovate using design thinking with the help of my fellow YPATer Ulises Brengi 10000 km away. Moreover, the team has come to realize that the world is changing faster than we think. For this reason, we have redesigned many of our curriculums including renewable energies, Artificial intelligence and many more. On the other hand, under this virtual setting, borders have become meaningless and we are building meaningful relationships across the world with like-minded organizations aiming at creating a generation of global citizens aware and enabled with the right set of skills to undertake the most pressing global challenges.