Vodafone ‘Instant Classroom’ is digital school in a box for refugees (Wired UK)


Vodafone Foundation


The Vodafone
Foundation has unveiled a portable “Instant Classroom” that it
hopes will give 15,000 child refugees across Africa 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.

Instant Classroom: the digital school in a boxVodafone Group

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.


Vodafone Foundation


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.


Vodafone Foundation


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.”

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1 March 2015 | 10:00 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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