The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has enlisted Vodafone’s charity body, the Vodafone Foundation, to bring mobile-based education programmes to 13 schools at the world’s largest refugee settlement, Dadaab, in eastern Kenya.
The Dadaab settlement comprises three camps – Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera – and houses mainly refugees from the civil war in neighbouring Somalia.
At its peak, before the signing of a November 2013 agreement between Kenya and Somalia, the camps housed 500,000 people, according to Médecins Sans Frontières.
Around 100,000 have since voluntarily repatriated to Somalia as international efforts to curb the Al-Shabaab insurgency bear fruit.
However, UNHCR estimates that 279,000 children are still living in Dadaab, of whom approximately 41% are enrolled in primary education and 8.5% in secondary schools. Many children arrive at the camp with no prior education.
The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Schools, supported by UNHCR Innovation and UNHCR Education, will offer tablet-based learning programmes to 18,000 young people aged between seven and 20.
Vodafone’s Kenyan affiliate Safaricom will provide connectivity across Dadaab’s 13 schools, comprising six primary, three secondary and four vocational skills centres for young adults. Huawei has also signed up to provide the programme with 235 tablets.
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The Vodafone Foundation will also support training programmes for 378 teachers, enabling them to optimise their use of the mobile services to provide pupils with information they would otherwise have been unable to access, as well as a link to schoolchildren in other countries and distance learning opportunities.
The foundation operates three other Instant Network Schools in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, benefiting another 5,000 pupils.
Andrew Dunnett, director at Vodafone Foundation, said there are still 16.7 million refugees worldwide, with half of them school-aged.
“Tablet-based learning programmes will provide many of the children in Dadaab with an unlimited information resource that they would otherwise not have had,” he said.
Support for the programme will also be provided by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Care, Islamic Relief Kenya, the Lutheran World Federation, Windle Trust Kenya and the Norwegian Refugee Council.
The NGOs already benefit from a high-speed network, DadaabNet, set up through a partnership between US government agency USAid and charity NetHope. The network provides superfast connectivity to allow the NGOs to co-ordinate their relief efforts, as well as a community centre service for camp residents.