Scottish agency creates digital classroom for refugees

Glasgow-based Equator  has developed a “digital classroom in a box” which will provide access to learning for children living in a camp in Northern France.

It has been developed by the digital agency’s innovations team and includes a wireless projector, 20 students’ tablets and a teaching pad, plus a range of educational apps aimed at children aged 3 to 18.

A group from Equator will travel to Dunkirk in January to deliver and set up the school which will be run by teaching volunteers based at the camp long term.

Around 150 children attend the children’s entre at the ‘La Linière’ camp in Grande-Synthe, on the outskirts of the town, 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.

The digital school is the brainchild of senior designer Lindsey Carr 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.

“These children have been forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own, 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 in a way which 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 is 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 currently delivered from a generator and described as “patchy” therefore the digital classroom has been designed to charge overnight so it will not require power during the day and all of the equipment is wireless.

Different lessons, focusing on English, maths and French, will be run throughout each day, with the children split into different groups according to age and ability.

James Jefferson, chief creative officer and co-owner of Equator, added: “This Christmas we wanted to do something beyond simply raising and donating money to charity and were keen to support Lindsay’s efforts to help people living in Europe’s refugee camps.

“In just a few weeks the innovation team have taken on and 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 in a box initiative brings them together to help refugee children in a meaningful way.

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

Lyndsay McDade, a trustee of the refugee camp at Dunkirk, said: “Children come to us having been out of education for varying amount of time, some of them having never attended school at all.

“There is a huge age range, we have kids from one to 13 years. They all have very different levels of attainment and knowledge, very few of them speak any English or French and are all behind in every aspect of their education.

“Giving children individual learning programmes using this digital classroom equipment will enable us to boost their basic skills and confidence, helping them become ready to access mainstream education more quickly. We are absolutely thrilled to have the support of Equator and can’t wait to welcome them to Dunkirk in January.”

Equator has been at the forefront of digital technology and transformational thinking since it was established in 1999. The company’s 170 experts “create connected experiences that grow brands and improve lives”.