Refugees 3: providing a digital classroom for children in need

A refugee camp might seem like the last place you’d expect to find a state-of-the-art digital classroom. But thanks to a Glasgow-based company with some serious technical savvy, 150 children have benefited from exactly that.

Scottish ideas agency Equator have developed a hi-tech learning space which will provide access to education for children living at the Dunkirk refugee camp in northern France.

Developed by Equator’s Innovation team, the classroom features a wireless projector, 20 students’ tablets and a teaching pad, plus a range of educational apps teaching maths, English and French to children aged three to 18.

The agency’s pioneering team have even built and modified the classroom to fit compactly into a mobile box, which can be used to charge equipment overnight.

Already, around 150 young people in the ‘La Liniere’ camp have had the opportunity to access educational tools through the class, which is run by unpaid volunteers.

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Stephen Noble and Lindsey Carr (above) of Equator’s Innovation team travelled to the refugee camp to implement the digital classroom. The duo worked with volunteers to show them how to continue using the classroom independently.

The digital project is the invention of Equator’s co-owner and chief creative officer, James Jefferson, and senior designer Lindsey, who volunteers with refugee support groups in her spare time.

Lindsey credits the desire to take a more practical approach in helping children in the camp, many of whom had never received a structured education due to the disruption in their lives.

“These children have been forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own and many of them have lost or been separated from their families. We wanted to use our skill set and experience to find an innovative yet practical way to help these children beyond just donating money.”

Instead, they challenged themselves to find a new way for delivering educational support which recognises the unique needs of the children in the camp.

“This is where the idea of a digital school in a box came from. The next challenge was to find appropriate apps to cater for children that are non-linguistic, as the majority of children in the camp speak Kurdish, which is not catered for in educational applications.”

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Currently, electricity at the camp is delivered by a generator and doesn’t always run smoothly. However, the team at Equator have ensured this won’t be an issue for the digital classroom, as the chargeable box can be powered up overnight and all of the equipment is wireless.

James Jefferson added that the team were keen to support Lindsey’s efforts to help people living in Europe’s refugee camps, echoing the goal to create something with a long-lasting impact.

“In a matter of weeks, the Innovation team solved the problem of delivering education in the camp in a flexible and sustainable way. Commitment to education and innovation are two of Equator’s core values and the digital classroom initiative brings them together to help refugee children in a meaningful way.

“We’re really excited that the project will ensure every child in the camp has access to education, creating the possibility to change all their lives for the better. We are also hopeful the Dunkirk classroom will act as a pilot for an initiative that could be rolled out across other camps to prevent displaced children being starved of education.”

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