Tech4Good: Bringing Connected Education to the World’s Largest Refugee Camp

Rich Henderson, Director of Global Education Solutions, Lenovo

From my beginnings as an elementary school janitor to a classroom leader and a special needs resource, my passion for education is deep rooted and has spanned decades.

In my current role as Director of Global Education Solutions at Lenovo, I oversee product, marketing and strategy implementation— elements that directly impact student education experiences. As a father of four children myself, I also feel even more compelled to deliver individualized, personalized educational experiences using technology for students in the classroom.

I’m driven by the world’s current divide in tech and education. Today’s online learning environment demands readily available laptops and tablets, of which so many around the world are unable to access and use due to lack of funding, disabilities, and the like. The pandemic has made this global disparity ever more apparent, which is why there’s never been a more important time to offer a solution that will help close this long-lasting digital divide.

So, when I was offered the opportunity to serve as a judge of the Education category at AbilityNet’s 10th annual Tech4Good Awards, I accepted without hesitation.

Tech4Good: What it Represents

The Tech4Good Awards serve as so much more than simply another award ceremony. They offer hope of a more connected and prosperous future, and a world where children can learn without worrying how they’ll access and comprehend their educational material.

I was honored to have a hand in recognizing those creating the vital resources that broaden academic knowledge within the tech space. As a technology enthusiast and education advocate, seeing the array of people participating and the ingenuity behind each creation was just as inspiring as it was impressive.

And the Winner Is...

The finalists in the Education award category share my passion of creating smarter, accessible technology for all, making me optimistic that together we can achieve a more inclusive future learning landscape.

This year’s winner, Children on the Edge, harnessed the power of technology to benefit its community. Based in the UK, Children on the Edge is pioneering a digital learning program to circumvent native language learning barriers by delivering educational tools to 7,500 displaced Rohingya students in Kutupalong in Bangladesh — the largest refugee camp in the world. The organization provides daily digital lessons projected in 150 classrooms, which tackle the language barrier by developing alternative, creative and visual communication of educational content.

Children on the Edge has distributed smartphones and battery-powered projectors to over 100 schools in the Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar slum communities and Doharazi enclaves. Staff have created and dubbed digital educational content into the Rohingya language, which currently lacks a universally accepted script. This can then be sent to teachers’ smartphones, which slots into projectors to deliver 1.5 hours of digital lessons, twice a day across all classrooms.

To fully express themselves and tackle isolation, refugee and host community children are creating news videos using a digital platform they have named “Moja kids.” The aim is to make this a global platform, for children living in challenging surroundings across the world, to express themselves, interact and learn about each other’s lives.

The principles of Children on the Edge — one of which is a commitment to maintaining a balance of inclusion and equality amongst children— align closely with those of Lenovo’s Smarter Technology for All vision. The organization prioritizes the best interest of each child and is guided by fundamentals of non-discrimination and participation.

Learning about the transformative work of Children on the Edge was uplifting, especially given the current tech and education divide. The organization’s efforts should propel all other individuals and organizations in the tech space to follow suit by putting digital tech to good use.

An Optimistic Future

Preparing young people for the careers of the future starts with smarter technology that is accessible to all. Each of the Education finalists’’ missions — from bolstering literacy rates to offering free weekly lessons to students learning at home — are making this a reality. Children on the Edge is a stellar example — the organization is granting kids equal and fair access across all classrooms by leveraging digital technology to transform the world, starting in the Kutupalong refugee camp.

As we realize technology’s abilities to enhance student education and its potential to change lives, it’s incumbent upon individuals and organizations in the tech space to implement inclusive, accessible solutions — not only for the sake of our children’s education, but for the future sake of a more connected society.

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