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Vodafone Foundation works with United Nations to create ‘instant classrooms’ for child refugees

Vodafone Foundation works with United Nations to create ‘instant classrooms’ for child refugees

UN High Commissioner for Refugees to deploy the ‘digital ‘school in a box’ in Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Vodafone Foundation has developed the Instant Classroom, a digital ‘school in a box’ that can be set up in a matter of minutes, for children and young adults in refugee camps.

The Vodafone Foundation Instant Classroom has been specifically designed for areas where electricity and internet connectivity are unreliable or non-existent and will be deployed in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The Vodafone Foundation Instant Classroom is robust, simple and powerful,” says Antony Welton, Vodafone New Zealand Foundation Chairman. “It puts the best technology that educators have to offer into the hands of children and young people living in the toughest of environments.

“The Instant Classroom is just another example of the Vodafone Foundation creating and using technology for good,” he adds.

Last year, the foundation launched the Instant Network in a backpack – an 11 kilogram mobile network that can be deployed in just ten minutes to connect people in disaster situations.

It puts the best technology that educators have to offer into the hands of children and young people living in the toughest of environments.

Antony Welton, Vodafone NZ

The robust backpack can be taken as hand luggage on commercial flights and can be deployed by non-technical staff. It provides up to five concurrent calls within a radius of 100 metres, and enables text messages to be sent to thousands of people to provide crucial information following a disaster.

Over the next year, the Instant Classroom will be deployed to 12 schools in refugee settlements in Kakuma in Kenya, in the Nyarungusu refugee settlement in Tanzania and in the Equatorial Region in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Vodafone Foundation expects the project to help up to 15,000 children and young adults aged from 7 to 20 with advanced teaching aids that are currently only available in a minority of schools in developed nations.

The Instant Classroom is shipped in a secure and robust 52 kilogram case which is equipped with a laptop, 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software, a projector, a speaker and a hotspot modem with 3G connectivity. The tablets can connect to the laptop locally, enabling teachers to deliver content and applications to students without the need to access the internet.

All the components of the Vodafone Foundation Instant Classroom can be charged simultaneously from a single power source while the case is locked. After six to eight hours of charging time, the classroom can be used for a full day in a classroom without access to electricity.

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The Instant Classroom builds on the Vodafone Foundation’s experience with tablet-based learning programs.Last year, the foundation worked with UNHCR’s Education and Innovation units to develop the Instant Network Schools program, which introduced tablet-based learning to around 18,000 pupils in the Dadaab refugee settlement in northern Kenya. Teachers at the Dadaab schools said the tablet-based lessons have been so popular that pupil attendance had increased by an average of 15 per cent.

UNHCR Innovation Lead Olivier Delarue says that in the face of increasingly complex humanitarian crises, the agency is tasked with finding new, creative ways to meet the developmental and educational needs of young refugees and stateless people worldwide.

“Innovation for us is not about developing educational products; rather it is about using technologies that partners like Vodafone Foundation have to offer as a new way of identifying and testing solutions to enhance educational opportunities.”

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

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