The easiest way to define rural areas is through the lowly populated density of the rural community, relative to more urban areas. Although some may think of it as rustic, serene and free from modern world problems, there are many complex issues that plague the people living in the rural areas. Some problems include high poverty rates, unemployment, poor infrastructure, lack of proper housing, lack of transportation networks, little to no healthcare, poor electricity broadband connectivity and limited education. In recent years, there is a growing need to improve education in rural areas.
Current Condition of Education in Rural Areas
Rural areas suffer from many problems that are invisible to first world countries. If you are reading this, it is highly likely that you have had access to a proper education. Most people from rural areas do not have the opportunity or resources to even attend a year of school. The education system in rural areas lacks in many aspects. In this post, we will look at 4 ways to improve education in these rural areas without internet access and even electrical plugs.
The first problem is the school itself. Many of these schools are structured makeshift huts, with no proper doors, windows, or walls. With simple infrastructure, the schools in these rural areas are extremely prone to the natural elements like rain water leaking through roofs, mould developing on the walls and termites. There is also insufficient furniture, chairs and desks to cater to each child. How does one study or learn in these unconducive environments if you do not even have a table to write?
Community and financial status
Many families in the rural community are poor. They do not have enough money for children to receive an education. This is prevalent in large families that struggle to afford the basic necessities, let alone school fees. As they do not perceive education as a priority to these communities, many older children also drop out to help their families.
It is a universal truth that teachers plays the most important part in a child’s education. They impart knowledge and can inspire children to have a curious and eager spirit to learn.
Most rural community teachers are not academically trained. They may not be able to give the students a proper education.
Additionally, most students are all placed in one single class, regardless of age. This results in overcrowded classrooms. As a result, the teachers also face difficulty in giving enough attention to each student.
Lack of materials
When we study in more privileged areas, we use laptops or tablets because the internet and electricity are easily available to us. Information can be obtained with just a click of the mouse. However, things operate differently in rural areas. Some schools have a “computer lab”, but not like the fancy ones we have. Their “computer labs” are equipped with two or three old donated computers that are extremely slow because of poor connection or the sheer age of the computer.
In such conditions, with little or no access to electricity and the internet, most of the information has to be derived from physical textbooks. Students may not have enough money to purchase books. Schools may also not have a large variety of books available. This limits the extent of knowledge that the students can learn.
How do we improve Education in Rural areas?
All these problems seem very difficult to overcome, however here are 4 practical ways to improve the quality of education for these rural area communities. Below are some authentic examples of implementation for consideration.
1. Digi-Eskwela Project E-Learning Tablets
The Patatas is a group of social innovators who actively look for ways to ease problems faced by these rural and underprivileged communities. The Patatas is a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Potato Production that supports social enterprises. Through innovative technology and digital solutions, The Patatas believe they can bring about positive change to these rural areas in innovative and efficient ways.
The Digi-Eskwela project introduces e-learning via tablets to children in the rural areas of Asia. The project focuses on gamification and mobile technology to supplement traditional classroom learning. By introducing tablets and weaving educational content into games, the children will be more engaged and eager to learn. The tablet acts as a platform for educational materials instead of physical textbooks and subjects or modules are preloaded according to the curriculum. Therefore, schools and students would not need to spend extra money on purchasing textbooks when the information is available on a compact tablet. Teachers also undergo training to ensure they are well prepared to conduct lessons with the tablet.
Digi-Eskwela project in Tiwala has shown over 50% improvement in numeracy and literacy skill. Tiwala teachers also gave positive feedback on how the children have improved their listening, reading, vocabulary and speed in mathematical problems.
Look at how the children have benefited from the Digi-Eskwela project!
Project Digi-Eskwela: Tiwala Scholar Mabeth’s Testimonial
2. Book donations
Other than innovative technology of the Digi-Eskwela project and the CaseStudy, there are other easier ways to help the community improve their education, through books! The Industrial and Services Co-operative Society Limited (ISCOS) collaborated with The Patatas to launch the “ISCOS Book Corner” in 2016.
During the launch, they invited David Seow, a local author that wrote 43 children’s books, to conduct a storytelling session. The ISCOS Book Corner hopes to invoke passion and love for reading among underprivileged children. The Patatas provided over 100 pre-loved books that were specially curated for a wide range of interests, such as storybooks, business, culture, leisure and even entrepreneurship.
However, as of now, The Patatas are no longer focused on this area of service. It definitely is a good way to improve education in rural areas that have no access to electricity and the Internet.
3. Volunteer programs
If you want to help and be the one to make a change, join a volunteer program! The Patatas always have new and innovative ways to help rural communities. One of the interesting projects was a collaboration with Red Pencil International to bring Art Therapy to the children in Tiwala.
You may ask, what is art therapy? It allows the children to use the power of creativity and art to express themselves in a way that words cannot. Many of these children live in poor conditions and experience violence and helplessness. Art therapy hopes to help these children build self-empowerment and resilience to their overwhelming life circumstances.
Art Therapists create a safe environment for children to express themselves and take part in the activities. The Tiwala teachers are also trained to conduct art therapy sessions, ensuring continuity and sustainability in the course, even after the Art Therapists leave. The Red Pencil International has also pledged to follow up every 3 to 6 months. As an update, as of now we have ceased our volunteering program to focus on serving communities through our CaseStudy project. Read more below!
4. The CaseStudy Project
In rural areas that are prone to natural disasters such as flash floods or hurricanes, school facilities such as “computer labs” get easily destroyed. Fixing or buying a new computer is just not a viable option for these schools.
The Patatas came up with a cost-effective digital solution to help the teachers adapt to different locations without facing complicated logistical issues. “Case Study” is a fully customisable case with many features specifically catering to the needs of each school and community.
CaseStudy is a waterproof housing unit that is portable and easy to carry around. It contains electrical and digital equipment needed for classes, but don’t worry, it is also shockproof. You can toss it around a class and all the electronic devices inside will be safe and sound inside. We designed it with the consideration that in case of a natural disaster such as earthquakes or floods, the items inside will be intact. CaseStudy acts as a classroom itself, providing teachers with complementing audio/visual and information support that can be set up quickly with ease.
Watch our Video here: https://www.facebook.com/thepatatas/videos/715231268909975/?v=715231268909975
The Patatas created this invention for those communities with no access to the internet, so that teachers can work offline using these technologies even in undesirable conditions. Without internet or electrical plugs, we can still improve education in rural areas using CaseStudy. Talk to us if you are interested in knowing more!