LONDON, Feb 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As a
university graduate, Korvi Rakshand wanted nothing more than to
help break the cycle of poverty in his native Bangladesh by
teaching children on the margins of society.
He rented a single room in a slum for his lessons and
provided half a kilo of rice a day to parents as a way of
encouraging them to send their children to class.
A decade on, what started as a hobby has led to a network of
10 online schools and three regular schools which aim to give
thousands of children in remote areas of the South Asian country
of 163 million an education via technology and the internet.
"What we've done is not rocket science but the thing is no
one ever tried it. It's a very simple system," said Rakshand,
whose JAAGO Foundation was the joint recipient on Tuesday of a
$25,000 U.N. award for innovation in education.
Even though primary education is free in Bangladesh, only
half of all children in the country's slums attend school, a
rate 18 percent lower than the national average, according to
the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.
Rakshand said initially lessons were delivered over Skype, a
messaging and video call service, but now teachers in the
capital Dhaka use interactive video conferencing to present live
tutorials, analyse charts and watch educational videos with
students in remote areas.
"For the kids, someone appearing on a television is like a
celebrity, so the kids love the concept that they're talking to
a television and there's someone from the capital who's probably
famous teaching them and giving them time," Rakshand told the
Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all is one of
17 development goals adopted by U.N. member states in 2015 as
part of an ambitious agenda to end global poverty by 2030.
Yet millions of children and adults around the world have
little or no access to education due to war, poverty and
displacement, experts say.
To address the deficit, non-profits and others are
increasingly harnessing technology to reach disadvantaged
communities and plug gaps in traditional education systems.
Promoting learning among refugees who have fled turmoil in
countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan can transform their
lives, according to Kiron, a non-governmental organisation whose
work providing refugees with free access to higher education was
also recognised by the prize from the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Based in Germany, the NGO runs an online platform that
allows refugees to sign up to accounting, engineering and other
courses by logging on via their smartphones from anywhere in the
world, including camps and shelters.
More than 2,000 students have enrolled in the courses
working with 27 partner universities across Germany, France,
Turkey and Jordan.
"For refugees that are in a new society, it's a lot about
their identity of feeling like a student and not like a refugee
anymore, and just having fun with each other," said Markus
Kressler, co-founder of Kiron.
Kressler said Kiron had been inundated with requests from
volunteers and academics who wanted to offer their services to
the online university.
"They (refugees) need just one shot in order to start a new
life," he said. "We need to give everyone a fair chance."
Despite the success of such projects, internet connection
remains a challenge, according to Rakshand, who said JAAGO had
considered introducing online classes in Sierra Leone and Nepal
but faced limited bandwidth in those countries.
(Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Katie Nguyen. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.