Uganda hosts 1.73 million refugees, almost all of whom have fled war, instability, and human rights violations. Of these refugees, 60% are under 18. However, upon arrival in one of Uganda’s 11 Refugee Settlements, access to durable, efficient services is severely limited. Settlement schools are overcrowded, understaffed, lacking in electricity, without education technology support (the average student-to-textbook ratio stands at 8:1), and without clean drinking water for students, a prerequisite for successful education attainment. Without improved education services, refugees in Uganda cannot learn building-block literacy skills, cannot graduate from high school, cannot find stable or suitable employment, and cannot sustainably escape the poverty trap. To respond to these challenges in Uganda, The Walking School Bus, in collaboration with the UNHCR and the Ugandan Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), has developed the Brighter Future Initiative, an education support program which provides refugee and remote school communities with easy and reliable access to educational software, hardware, and content. The Initiative is comprised of two core innovations.
The BrightBox Micro is an affordable, suitcase-sized, solar-powered, digital education kit designed to boost capacity in existing, overpopulated classrooms, andraise student literacy levels with included software and curriculum content.
The Micro will serve 1,000 students per week (content breakdown on attached document). BrightBox Macro classrooms are installed within the grounds of an existing school, and are fully solar-powered, created from a repurposed shipping container. Macros have proven capable of serving 6000 students per week.
The Raspberry Pis in both Macro and Micro innovations contain 64GB of educational content. This includes the TWSB offline curriculum, which is rigorously tailored to match the National Ugandan curriculum. The Raspberry Pi also provides access to Simbi, a reading-while-listening software designed by members of TWSB. It allows students to read along with educational books and other literacy materials that are simultaneously read to them in an accent or dialect of their choice. Alternatively, students can record themselves reading, and then listen back to their own voices: a proven method of rapid literacy progression. In Randomized Control Trials, Simbi has proven to double students’ reading proficiency levels in just three months.