The Vodafone Foundation is present at the Mobile World Congress 2015 with a demonstration of the ‘Instant Classroom’ project, a portable digital school that can be installed in minutes and which will help children and young adults living in large refugee camps with scarce resources to complete their education.
The Vodafone Foundation’s instant classroom is being implemented in partnership with the UNHCR’s Innovation and Education units and is designed to operate in regions where electricity and internet connections are scarce or non-existent. The ‘Instant Classroom’ comes in a secure, robust 52 kg box equipped with a laptop computer, 25 tablets with pre-installed educational software, a projector, a speaker and a modem with 3G hotspot connection.
All the equipment that makes up the Vodafone Foundation classroom can be charged simultaneously from a single power supply, with the box locked. After six to eight hours’ charging, the ‘Instant Classroom’ is available for use throughout the day without an electrical connection.
The Vodafone Foundation’s ‘Instant Classroom’ will be used all year long in 12 schools in the refugee camps at Kakuma in Kenya, Nyarungusu in Tanzania and in the Equatorial Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It will serve over 15,000 children and young adults and provide them with advanced learning material that is currently available only in a minority of schools in developed countries.
This project grew out of the Vodafone Foundation’s experience in the development of learning programmes based on tablets. In 2014, a project was launched with the UNHCR’s Education and Innovation units for the development of the Instant School Network programme, which consisted in teaching 18,000 students in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya using mobile technology. Teachers in the Dadaab schools said that classes with tablets are so popular that class attendance has increased by 15% on average.
Over the next two years, the Instant School Network programme will be extended to provide support in other refugee camps in Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo with a view to serving over 40,000 children and young people.
The Director of the Vodafone Foundation, Andrew Dunnett, said that “at the end of 2013, according to UNHCR figures, there were 50 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, half of them under 18 years of age. Refugees spend on average 17 years away from home, and many of them have little or no access to education. The Vodafone Foundation’s ‘Instant Classroom’ is robust, simple and powerful. It puts the best educational technology into the hands of children and young people living in the toughest of environments.”
The head of the UNHCR’s Innovation unit, Olivier Delarue, said that “in the light of an increasingly complex range of humanitarian crises, UNHCR’s mission is to find new and creative ways to meet the development and education needs of young refugees worldwide. We welcomed the opportunity to work with the Vodafone Foundation to find innovations that work in the refugees’ context. Innovation for us is not the development of educational products; rather it is the use of technologies that partners like the Vodafone Foundation have to offer as a new way to identify and test solutions to increase educational opportunities.”