Equator leaves learning legacy at Dunkirk refugee camp

A Scottish agency has launched an initiative to provide access to education for children living at the Dunkirk refugee camp in Northern France.

Equator’s digital classroom was developed by the Glasgow-based agency’s innovation team.

It includes a wireless projector, 20 students’ tablets and a teaching pad, plus a range of educational apps aimed at children aged between three to 18, teaching maths, English and French. The classroom fits in a transportable box which can be used to charge the equipment overnight.

Around 150 young people attend the children’s centre at the ‘La Linière’ camp in Grande-Synthe, on the outskirts of Dunkirk, which is home to around 1,500 refugees. Many of the children have never received structured education as a result of the disruption to their lives.

Last week, Stephen Noble and Lindsey Carr, from Equator’s Innovation team travelled to the refugee camp to implement the digital classroom and worked with teaching volunteers so they could continue using the classroom.

The digital school is the brainchild 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.

“The centre is run purely by unpaid volunteers who are trying to make things as comfortable as possible for the refugees with limited resources,” said Lindsey.

“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.

“We set ourselves the challenge of finding a way to deliver educational support that recognises the unstructured and often disruptive lives the children are living. 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 aged three to 13 that are non-linguistic as the majority of children in the camp speak Kurdish which is not catered for in educational applications.”

Electricity at the camp is delivered by a generator and described a ‘patchy’, but the digital classroom can be overnight and all of the equipment is wireless.

James added: “We were keen to support Lindsey’s efforts to help people living in Europe’s refugee camps and wanted to do something with a long-lasting impact that was a step above simply donating money to charity.

“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.”

Helena Wiggins, coordinator at the children’s centre, said: “These digital classroom resources will make such a difference to enabling our children to access today’s technology, preparing them for the world they will encounter in the future as well as making essential learning fun and interactive.”