Meet Markus Kressler, the 25-year-old student from Germany, who has founded the world’s first online university for refugees, which provides free higher education for refugees and displaced people. The Berlin-based Kiron University is a completely non-profit venture, that was first thought of by him and Vincent Zimmer in the summer of 2014, and using a crowdfunding campaign to gather funds, has so far accumulated a total of $606302!

first online school for refugees

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With the refugee situation in Germany getting worse and worse each day, Kressler had a strong connection to the crisis, as his own parents had been refugees. He recounted the hardship they’d faced when they’d fled to West Germany after the Berlin wall came down.

My parents could not get a job because they didn’t have an apartment, and they didn’t get an apartment because they had no work. Friends let us register in their house so that my father could find work. And that’s how they got their new life going. They managed, but it wasn’t easy.

After leaving school, Kressler had moved to Mannheim for his studies. One day, on his way home, he and the friend he was with, found Kabuko, a refugee who had come to Germany from Gambia. Having had a long and arduous journey through Tenerife and Spain, Kabuko was lost and helpless, with nowhere to go. Seeing this, Markus and his friend took him to their apartment where he lived with them for half a year. Kabuko was actually quite smart, and had been educated in Gambia, but he’d had to leave and come to Germany due to lack of prospects. However, he was still not allowed to enroll in a university in Germany.

first online school for refugees

Picture Source first online school for refugees

It was at a conference during the summer of 2014 that he met Vincent Zimmer, who was already from the tech startup world. Vincent had a dream of revolutionizing higher education by developing a new kind of university which could utilize the technological advancements of this age to help impart education to those less fortunate. Immediately impressed with the concept, Kressler got into a discussion with him, discussing their amazing vision. They started talking to online course providers, colleges, and important officials in business and government to give shape to their dream.

first online school for refugees

Picture Source first online school for refugees

With the help of the crowdfunding campaign, they launched the educational hub in October 2015, and since then, more than 15,000 refugees have already sent in their applications. Apart from courses in English from reputed universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Yale, Kiron also has a preparation program, “English as a Foreign Language” for those who do not speak the language. It provides Bachelor’s Degrees in several subjects, language courses, as well as services like psychological counseling and life coaching. To apply, students have to submit their documents online, including the recognition of their refugee status from UNHCR.

first online school for refugees

Picture Source first online school for refugees

In order to sign up for the courses, students only need a computer and an internet connection. Additionally, offline courses are also offered which can be downloaded where internet access is available. Since the number of students who can register for the courses is based on the number of seats Kiron has been provided by its partner universities, the number of seats is still quite limited. However, they have already promised have places for an additional 10,000 students in the first year!

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