With schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, learners in rural areas have been able to continue learning through a network of internet hubs provided by Roke Telkom and Hello World, a UK-based charity.
In 2019, Roke Telkom partnered with Hello World to help remote and marginalised upcountry communities that are underserved by the internet, to access digital education.
They built 14 ‘Hello Hubs’ around the country, 8 of these in Nakivale refugee settlement, 2 in Kampala and 4 others in Fort portal.
The solar-powered, outdoor, internet-connected computer kiosks are designed to provide communities with access to educational software, games, and video and communication platforms.
They are set up to give people the opportunity to connect with the world, have a voice in their community, educate themselves, and begin their journey towards economic empowerment.
The chief Commercial Officer at Roke Telkom, Michael Mukasa, explained that the disruptions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic have pushed children in rural and refugee communities further to the edge with many likely to drop out permanently from the education system.
“Covid-19 has had a grim impact on children. However, our partnership with Hello World has in many ways been a silver lining because we have been able to extend access to at least 14,000 kids in underserved and unprivileged rural communities in a time when physical attendance in schools is a risk,” Mukasa said.
Some 7.5 million learners (51%) have not had any form of learning during the 14-month period that schools in Uganda have been closed, according to a recent report by the Forum for African Women Educationalists Uganda (FAWE).
The report notes that learners from rural areas were most affected with 52.2% of them failing to access the materials compared to those in urban areas with 49.8 per cent.
As part of the Roke Plus offering, Meeting Apps and Office Suit Apps are zero rated, to eliminate barriers that could make it difficult for learners and teachers to interact virtually during such times which require social distancing.
This zero-rate also enables business owners to reduce the cost of data as they can coordinate, communicate with their teams at no charge.
During the lockdown and pandemic, over 15 million learners were affected by school closures exposing them to several risks including abuse, child labour, limited access to basic needs, sexual abuse, physical violence, pregnancy, theft among others.