Using satellites and solar power, education portal brings teachers to refugee camps

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As much as we enjoy geeking out over giant mech robot battles and stories about 3D printing in space, one of the most amazing — and amazingly easy to take for granted — aspects of modern technology is the ability to convey information anywhere in the world. That’s something that a new project aimed at teaching kids in the Ampain refugee camp in Western Ghana is taking full advantage of with an education portal.

The organizers are using smart tech — including satellites, solar-powered computer hardware, and an interactive live feed — to deliver two-way lessons to people who otherwise would miss out. According to its organizers at the Varkey Foundation, this is the world’s first satellite-enabled live two-way interactive distance-learning program for children living in refugee camps.

“The Ampain primary school has been fitted with a satellite dish, which, through solar-powered technology, receives a live link to highly qualified teachers in a studio in Accra, who broadcast lessons direct to the refugee camp,” Leonora Dowley, country director for Ghana at the Varkey Foundation, told Digital Trends. “Each classroom has a projector so all the children can see the teacher giving the lessons, and each classroom has also been provided with a computer so that children can interact with the teacher in a direct, live, two-way link. This is much more effective than simply providing children with textbooks, as nothing can beat access to a great teacher.”

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The interactive classes have been running since April, with the express aim of helping kids who are currently out of school, or at risk of dropping out of education altogether. The hope is that the project will enable these students to catch up with their basic classes, continue on with secondary education, and learn the language of their host country.

In addition to offering literacy and numeracy lessons, the program also offers after-school sessions aimed at teaching subjects like reproductive health, human rights awareness, financial literacy, and leadership.

“We believe this is a highly replicable solution that could be deployed in other settings,” said Dowley. “Given the extent of the refugee crisis, it will be exciting to see how things could develop on this front in future.”