We talked to Siroun Shamigian of Kamkalima about Arabic language teaching and learning process, and this is what she had to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Siroun Shamigian: It has been a challenging time for sure during this pandemic, yet we are all doing well at the moment.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kamkalima.
Siroun Shamigian: Before founding Kamkalima, I spent more than 20 years working in K-12 schools, mainly as a Biology teacher and EdTech coordinator.
The reason I made the switch was that I felt that as an EdTech leader and trainer, I was not able to assist teachers in the Arabic department because of the lack of relevant resources that can support the teachers and, at the time, almost no online platforms to engage the students and facilitate the teaching and learning process. That was how Kamkalima was born.
How does Kamkalima innovate?
Siroun Shamigian: Kamkalima solves problems. Kamkalima’s vision is to nurture a young generation of talent who can communicate effectively in Arabic and can use the language to collaborate, create, and solve problems. We achieve this by providing the needed tools, content, and artificial intelligence to learn. The student is at the heart of our mission; however, the teacher is the vessel that allows for the process of learning to begin. Once the teacher becomes empowered with the needed tools and skills, Arabic education is elevated to another level impacting students, teachers, and schools alike.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Siroun Shamigian: With the start of the pandemic, schools were pushed towards remote learning. Most schools are not equipped with the right technology that can make the learning process a success. As such, all schools needed to purchase communication platforms with their technology budgets which led to a neglect of Edtech platforms. The Arabic departments were the most affected as teachers needed training on the use of communication technology and educational platforms. So far, even with the pandemic, we have an increase of 50% in customers, and currently, we are working on different partnerships with school networks.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Siroun Shamigian: Being a startup founder, making difficult choices is just part of daily life. That fact was definitely put to the test during the pandemic. On the other hand, being a Lebanon-based company, our troubles (social, economic, security, and political) during 2020 went way beyond the pandemic. From taking the tough decision to provide the team with financial incentives during the banking and financial collapse in Lebanon to become a fully remote-working team overnight without the proper infrastructure, and finally, the very difficult decision to start moving our HQ and some team members to Abu Dhabi were tough decisions that certainly paid off. As one of my wonderful mentors keeps reminding me: What matters is your input, the output you cannot control.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Kamkalima in the future?
Siroun Shamigian: On a personal level, I exercise a lot to lessen the stress and the overwhelming situations I had to deal with this year. As a company that puts its employees at the center of its mission, we have been doing a lot of group efforts to support each other through this pandemic through online meetings and little acts of kindness here and there.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Siroun Shamigian: There are a lot of e-learning platforms at the moment, especially with the emergence of online learning, there is a huge need there. However, it is a difficult year. We need to look past the concept of competition and come together to support the education industry as a whole.
We have a lot coming up down the line, we are growing our product every year and only getting better. We plan to stay on top of the game by keeping quality up and keeping students at the heart of our mission.
Your final thoughts?
Siroun Shamigian: A few years into the future people will look back to 2020 and will process all the events that unfolded and all the lessons learned; both as individuals and institutions.
The pandemic was and continues to be a global disaster. On the other hand, it pushed the boundaries of education institutions, with all their stakeholders.
A part of that shift, EdTech was pushed to the main stage.
Historically education is known to be one of the last industries to adopt innovative changes. That was put to the test as the pandemic accelerated the need for a proper remote learning environment to facilitate the teaching and learning process.
My firm belief is that Edtech is here to add value to our educational system and not to replace the teacher as we believe they are vital in the learning process. Together, we can be the present and the future of generations rightfully armed based on their needs.
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