App designed by students at south Wales college shortlisted for MIT global prize

A group of students at a college in south Wales have created the first ever language app for refugees and asylum seekers.

AILEM has been created to provide knowledge and education to support the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in integrating into society. The app is the result of a year-long project by students at UWC Atlantic College in Llantwit Major.

Images: Screenshots from the app

Abobakar, 18, is a refugee from Afghanistan on a full scholarship at UWC Atlantic, and co-created the app with his classmate Zakarya, who is also a refugee, alongside their fellow students Lucia and Xinyao Liu.

“Unemployment, discrimination, poverty and integrating into local education, are just the few examples of challenges that refugees when they arrive in a foreign country. But the one challenge that they all have to deal with is the language,” said Abobakar.

The ethos of the app is “Created by refugees for refugees”, with content that is relevant to the lifecycle of a refugee’s journey of integrating into society.

In line with this, the team has created a refugee and asylum seeker panel, who will advise on the development of the app through their experiences, suggestions and ideas, which no other app in the market does.

Roaya, 18, a refugee from Lebanon, also on a full scholarship at UWC Atlantic, said:

“Learning the language is really important for refugees when they arrive in a country, but it can cost a lot of money to get a tutor. Many refugees do not have the means and time to travel into a city for classes either, especially if they have to work.”

The app has also been picked from more than 800 proposals across 148 countries to be a finalist in a competition by world-renowned university Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT Solv[ED] Youth Innovation Challenge invites young people every year to come up with technology solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in society.

Naheed Bardai, principal at UWC Atlantic College, said:

“The AILEM app goes to the heart of what UWC is about – empowering young people to go out and make the difference they want to see in the world. This app is a world-first and I’m so proud of what our students have created.”

The full AILEM curriculum is available to use in French and English, with more languages to be added in the future. However, the app also has a key phrases feature (AILEMmap), which is available in five user languages (English, Arabic, Pashto, Dari and Ukrainian) to teach Croatian, Czech, Polish, Romanian, English, French and Japanese