Foundation has unveiled a portable "Instant Classroom" that it hopes will give 15,000 child refugees
access to tablet-based education.
The digital school in a box, which has been unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, can be set up in 20 minutes and can be used in classrooms where there is no electricity. The Foundation has partnered with UNHCR to bring the Instant Classroom to 12 schools in Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the next 12 months.
Each Instant Classroom is shipped in a secure and robust case that weighs 52kg and comes equipped with a laptop, 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software, a projector, a speaker and a hotspot modem with 3G connectivity. The Classroom can be charged as a single unit from one power source in 6-8 hours, after which it can be used in a for an entire day without access to electricity.
The ongoing partnership between the Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR has already seen the benefits of tablet-based education in refugee camps. Through the Instant Network Schools programme it used tablets donated by Huawei to provide educational experiences to 18,000 pupils in the Dadaab refugee settlement in Kenya. The tablet-based lessons have proved so popular that attendance rates has improved by 15 percent on average.
It has always been the Foundation's approach to bring holistic solutions that include power, connectivity and devices into refugee camp schools. The box, however, is being introduced to help increase the reach of the programme and to make deployment faster and more efficient, the Vodafone Foundation's Oisin Walton explains to WIRED.co.uk.
´We can't with the current programme meet all the needs in the refugee camps,´ he says. ´We'd like to expand the programme and we're looking into this but we cannot reach all the schools in the camp at the moment so to support that the box means that you can actually bring all the equipment into a classroom where we haven't fitted internet and power.´
The Vodafone Foundation started working in its first school in October 2013 and has been working on the box since last summer. It took about six months to design the box and source the equipment and the first prototype was delivered in December 2014. ´But I would say it is based on 18 months work in refugee camps,´ says Walton.
As well as improving attendance rates, Vodafone and UNHCR's efforts to introduce technology into classrooms has encouraged children attending school not to turn up late, as if they do they are not allowed to use the tablets, he adds. ´It's amazing to see the impact and the excitement -- particularly in Dadaab.´
Not only are people keen to use the technology, but they are fully aware of the fact that the skills they are learning will open up more opportunities to them. ´When you're stuck in the camp, your opportunity to create a business or to be able to work aligns with your potential to work with technology,´ says Walton.
The plan now, he adds ´is to deploy 12 of these kits in the next twelve months in Congo (DRC), Kenya and Tanzania.´ All of the kits will go to new schools and the 15,000 new students the Vodafone Foundation will serve as a result should bring the total number of children benefitting from the programme to close to 45,000.
Over the coming months the Vodafone Foundation will also be putting more emphasis on content and training, says Walton. ´We have the technology now -- we need to create that link between the technology and the human factor, which are the teachers and what they're actually teaching on the ground, and that takes some time.´"