When it came to her studies, 11-year-old Zeinab Al Jusuf was always first in her class. But that was before the war broke out in her home country of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Now in Beirut, Lebanon, where her family took refuge, she and her siblings have to make do with some story books to study at home.

More than three years into the Syrian crisis, many of the 3 million displaced children haven’t returned to school. But UNICEF innovation specialist James Cranwell-Ward saw a solution in a small low-cost technology – a computer hard drive the size of a credit card called the Raspberry Pi. Complemented by a tablet screen and a platform developed by e-learning start-up Foundation for Learning Equality (with materials translated to Arabic), he knew his innovation team in Lebanon could help educate out-of-school children like Zeinab.

“In the UK, a revolution is happening. Children are being empowered to learn essential skills for the modern age,” says Cranwell-Ward. “Initiatives such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation have created a low-cost computer they can use to both learn and play. This can be used … to deliver non-formal education into areas where many displaced children reside, including refugee camps and community centres.”

In October, in an informal learning centre in Beirut, Zeinab attended her first Raspberry Pi class with other refugees aged 10 to 16. She’s now learning computer coding, basic numeracy and science, and has built her first game using Scratch – Pi’s coding language.

“Here we can create our own games and play with them ourselves,” says Zeinab. “Or we can let others play with them.”

Cranwell-Ward hopes the pilot programme can soon extend to provide lessons to thousands more refugees in Lebanon and beyond.