Atarib ICT Academy

Roia established an ICT Academy in Atarib, in the west of Aleppo province. The Academy empowers Syrian youth through lifelong vocational ICT and allows them to access the local and global job market, providing them with the tools and opportunities to make a better future for themselves and their communities.

The Atarib ICT Academy is designed to provide youth with lifelong ICT vocational skills and immediate, improved access to livelihood opportunities in both the local market and globally through online freelancing. Project activities include comprehensive and meaningful ICT training as well English training and direct livelihood activities, which include an internship program and induction to online freelancing opportunities and platforms. In total, the ICT academy accommodates 200 beneficiaries and will emphasise IDP-host integration. The project will draw extensively on lessons learnt/adaptive learning from a similar, previously implemented academy in Eastern Ghouta.

During the training, students learn how to design a dynamic website and use graphic softwares, as well data entry and sale tactics. Through the Subul platfor, we developed in partnership with Microsoft, clients and companies from all around the world will be able to contact our beneficiaries for paid IT and non IT-related activities. Our will is that, after the training, this young folk will be able to work remotely and broaden their horizon in terms of work opportunities.

One of the main drivers of vulnerability in Atarib is the dire livelihood situation. Accordingly, the central goal of this project is to provide the beneficiaries with improved access to income-generating activities. While the training component prepares the participants with technical skills training for ICT and freelancing work, the livelihood component offers them the necessary tools to facilitate their entry into the ICT job market.

Atarib is located in the west of Aleppo province and has historically served as a strategic transport hub between the governorate capital of Aleppo’s northern countryside, and the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. A pre-war population of around 30,000 has swelled to nearly 50,000 as a result of displacement and continues to grow. While Sunni Arabs remain the main demographic in the town, the IDP population has changed the region’s make-up. Atareb is nominally covered in the de-escalation agreement signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey in May 2017 yet, like many other areas in the de-escalation zones, Atareb has suffered from bombardment, with a particularly devastating air strike killing 50 people in a market in November 2017. Since the airstrike in November, however, the area has not faced any major attacks from Government of Syria forces.

Across the whole of Syria, an estimated 69% of people now live in extreme poverty and support themselves on less than US$2 a day. Of these, it is estimated that 35% live in abject poverty, unable to afford the basic goods necessary to survive. Among young people, who make up over half the population, unemployment rates are estimated at 78% with the figure significantly higher among young women. Such figures are reflected across Western Aleppo. The violence in Syria over the last 7 years has severely affected the regular economic cycle of communities in Idlib and Aleppo . In normal circumstances, there exists a circular economic flow between households and firms. Households provide firms with labour while firms provide wages in exchange. With these wages, households in turn buy goods and services from firms, thus providing firms with the income for wages and other factors of production (e.g. raw materials for goods and services).

However, a consequence of the conflict, this circular flow is broken by violence, instability and destruction of communications and infrastructure. Firms have been destroyed or forced to close due to fleeing owners, and fewer firms means fewer jobs. Meanwhile, those firms that have remained open have fewer goods and services to offer due to the inaccessibility and unaffordability of raw materials. With fewer jobs, there is less income in local households to buy goods and services—a problem exacerbated by the now higher cost due to scarcity. With fewer goods and services being bought, firms cannot afford to hire labour and, overall, the flow becomes a negative cycle.

The concept of sustainable livelihoods depends heavily on the state of education and, due to the on-going crisis in Syria, the education system faces many challenges in terms of resources and financing. In Atarib subdistrict, several communities report being unable to afford basic goods and food. Accordingly, a high risk of negative coping mechanisms has been recorded, with child labour, meal skipping, debt, and high-risk/illegal work being resorted to by many community members in order to survive.