Breaking education barriers with technology

Digital Awareness UK partner with Instant Network Schools - a programme set up by Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), to give up to 500,000 young African refugees access to equitabl

February 6, 2024

Today is Safer Internet Day and millions of children around the world are expected to participate in activities that promote the safe and positive use of technology. But when it comes to being safe online, connectivity and digital literacy education are privileges that not every child has equal access to; globally around 60% of school-age children in urban areas do not have internet access at home (UNICEF) and more than 50% of refugee children do not have access to education (UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency).  

Refugees are disproportionately impacted by digital risks such as online fraud, exploitation or scams. So this Safer Internet Day, we want to highlight these unique challenges and share some of the ways we are addressing them through our work with Instant Network Schools - a remarkable programme set up by Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR, to give up to 500,000 young African refugees access to equitable and quality education through connectivity and digital education resources. 

An Instant Network Schools classroom

As highlighted in the UNHCR’s Connecting with Confidence Report, connectivity can positively impact the lives of crisis-affected people, especially refugees, who require timely access to critical information, communication channels with family members, and livelihood opportunities during displacement. So it’s been incredible to see how Instant Network Schools is breaking down barriers by transforming existing classrooms across Africa into multimedia hubs for learning – complete with a local network; internet connectivity; sustainable solar power; and devices in quite literally a 52kg box.

Instant Classroom, the digital 'school in a box'

But connectivity can also introduce young refugees to new risks, threats and vulnerabilities. So since 2020, we have created a series of educational programmes in partnership with Instant Network Schools. Three of which have involved developing digital literacy courses which have been completed by over 60,000 children in refugee hosting schools across Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Mozambique and Egypt.

These digital courses, are context-specific, inclusive, accessible (with learning resources being available in audio and visual formats in five languages) and provide an interactive and immersive learning experience through engaging videos, quizzes and resources.

The Digital Awareness Curriculum

This course is designed to provide young refugees with the foundational level skills and competencies needed to navigate the internet safely and responsibly. Course content includes:

  • Protecting personal information
  • Creating strong, secure passwords
  • Building a positive digital footprint
  • Managing fake news
  • Spotting and avoiding scams
  • Being kind online
  • Connecting with people safely

Teachers are also provided supporting resources for each topic in the form of lesson plans.

Digital Awareness Curriculum course

The Digital Discovery Course

As ‘search’ is often the gateway for learning, this programme focuses on providing students with the skills required to search for and critically assess information online. We created a 10-part course containing a series of videos providing step-by-step guidance on browsing, searching and filtering data, information and digital content. Course content includes:

  • Introduction to search engines
  • Search engine results page
  • Using filter bars
  • Searching with keywords
  • Filtering search results
  • Exploring Wikipedia
  • Understanding web addresses
  • Fact checking information
  • Fact checking on social media and messaging apps
  • Digital Discovery teaching

INS Comms Club

As INS students' digital skills advanced, we developed a programme to help strengthen their media literacy skills. This involved creating a bespoke INS media literacy framework and a series of online journalism theory and practice courses featuring high-profile journalists from media organisations such as The BBC, Google, Bloomberg and The Financial Times.  Course content includes:

  • Introduction to journalism
  • Ethics and journalism
  • News gathering
  • News writing
  • News presenting
  • Social media journalism
  • Video journalism 
  • Photo journalism 
INS Comms Club course

Instant Network Schools recently announced that their programme intends to grow pupil numbers by 84% in the next three years to help over 500,000 learners and 10,000 teachers by March 2026. We wish them every success in their efforts and are incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to be part of this invaluable programme that truly demonstrates the positive impact technology can have on our lives.


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