London — The British charity, the Vodaphone Foundation, and the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, have opened two Instant Network Schools in northern Mozambique to help with the education of nine thousand children who are missing their schooling due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of conflict in many parts of Africa.
One of the schools will serve the Maratane Refugee Settlement, a camp hosting a third of the country's refugees, and another is the biggest secondary public school in Nampula city. They will cover grades 7 - 12 and 200 teachers will receive specialised training.
The Maratane Refugee Camp is located about 35 kilometres from Nampula city. It was set up in February 2001 and is the national centre for registering and settling asylum seekers. It currently hosts over nine thousand refugees mainly from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Somalia.
The camp is run by the government's National Refugee Support Institute (INAR) and there is a primary and secondary school serving both refugees and local children. However, it is estimated that over half of the children in the camp do not have access to education.
Vodaphone's Andrew Dunnett pointed out that "Covid-19's onslaught of school closures, health needs, and loss of family livelihoods has exacerbated the risks of refugee children - and secondary school-age refugee girls in particular - not returning to school. Refugee students in Mozambique - where Maratane used to be called the forgotten camp - have faced particularly dire conditions and consequences for their continued safety, wellbeing, and learning".
The Instant Network Schools scheme converts existing classrooms into multimedia hubs with internet connectivity and provides educational content in line with the country's curriculum. The scheme provides a 'school in a box' composed of 25 tablets for students, a laptop for the teacher, a projector, speaker, 3G internet connectivity, solar charging, and a library of digital educational resources.
The UNHCR representative in Mozambique, Samuel Chakwera, pointed out that "fostering quality learning in refugee settlements and camps remains a constant challenge as most of the time educational resources are not available in those settings. Through the Instant Network Schools programme in secondary schools in Maratane and Nampula, an innovation hub will be created in the classroom, bringing together education, innovation, and protection. I am incredibly proud to see the programme expand into Mozambique where I hope it will have the same success that we've experienced in other countries".
The addition of the two schools in Mozambique brings the total number of Instant Network Schools to 38, helping over 94,000 pupils and a thousand teachers. The other schools are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan.
The programme was established by Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR in 2013 to give young refugees, host community members and their teachers access to digital devices, resources and tools, including the internet which assist in improving the quality of education in some of the most marginalised communities in Africa. The partnership intends to expand the programme to benefit 500,000 young refugees and their communities by 2025.