Pros & Cons of UNICEF Back to School Starter Kit

Remember the devastating event that happened in 2019? The Category 5 storm – Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, causing widespread destruction to infrastructures and homes. Efforts to supply the survivors with essential items for survival such as food, water, clothing and lodging was considered top priority. However, children need to continue with their education. Education has an impeccable contribution to society’s modernization. It not only expedites the nation’s economic growth but also accelerates the future life of children all around the world. UNICEF is one of the major player in this revolution, helping children in less developed countries to have access to education that they deserve and need, no matter the situation.

What is UNICEF?

UNICEF is the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. It was founded in 1946 to assist children in countries devastated by World War II. Now operating in more than 190 countries and territories, it has helped save more young lives. Its world-changing work is sustained solely by voluntary contributions.

Colleges and high school students are able to participate in starting a movement and actively volunteering in the ‘#childrenfirst’ initiative.

It is UNICEF USA’s goal to empower American youth with the resources and skills to be effective global citizens — thinking globally and acting locally for the world’s most vulnerable children. As shown in the image below, they par-take in child protection, child survival, education, social policy, gender equality, innovation for children, supply and logistics as well as research and analysis.

School-in-a-Box Scheme

Under the branch of education, UNICEF implicates the School-in-a-Box scheme that plans to supply less fortunate children with the education that they require, even in emergency situations, all in a standard toolkit. These pre-packaged kits are instructional and recreational aids in post-emergency settings, in the event that the schools are destroyed, it is a relief package for teachers and children who are struggling to cope with loss and sudden change after natural disasters such as tsunamis (Hurricane Dorian) or devastating earthquakes (Haiti Earthquake 2010).

The kit contains 18 consumable and non-consumable items of which 8 components are for teacher’s usage and the other 10 for students.

Continuation of Education post-emergency

One of the many pros of the UNICEF School-in-a-box kit, is that it is able to provide children, aged 6 years and over, with continuation of their education in the first 72 hours of an emergency, by providing the simple stationery for a class of 40 students and 1 teacher. It is not only efficient but also convenient due to its multi-purpose function, allowing a makeshift classroom anywhere, anytime. The kit is kept safely in a locked aluminium box, which the lid of the aluminium box can be re-purposed into a blackboard when coated with the given special paint included in the kit. Talk about multi-functional.

Education Kit ready in Multiple Languages

Another highlight of the UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box kit is that it is adapted in different languages and to different situations. This means that they do specialise in education kits for children worldwide, creating inclusivity for something that every child should have the opportunity to have. They make use of environmentally sustainable supplies, ranging from bio-compostable bags to replace plastic bags, recovered paper fibres for over 6000 tonnes of paper and recycled aluminium boxes. All of these highlights can be found on their website, as well as guidelines on using the kit.

Limitations to Using the Kit

However, there are also limitations to utilising the kit, the effectiveness of distributing the kits are not as up to standard. The factor that hindered the efficient distribution of the materials was the solidity and the quality of the boxes transported. Some of School-in-a-Box kits came packed in cardboard boxes, items quickly separated as the cardboard was unable to withstand transport and storage conditions. Feedback from the teachers receiving the Indonesian School-in-a-Box complained of the poor quality of the metal box, as they rusted quickly causing damage to some of the equipment stored inside.

As extensive as the items found in the kit are, the consumable items in the School-in-a-box need to replenished approximately 3 months later. Orders can be placed through the supply catalogue in UNICEF’s website. The indicative price of the School-in-a-bag kit (S9935019) is listed at $66.07 USD. You can also contact the Supply Division’s suppliers via their email.

Suggestions to Improve on the Unicef Kit

The Patatas have some suggestions on how to improve on these cons, and it is a simple solution. Improvements can be easily made by switching to use CaseStudy, a Patatas digital education solution.

About The Patatas

A quick introduction of The Patatas, we are a socially innovative company, providing a range of services to aid in humanitarian response by collaborating with partners to create digitally improved communities, making products for children more accessible, affordable, safe and sustainable.

From our website, you can read our blog for more in depth details on what we do and our accomplishments. Not to mention many happy testimonials from our latest trip in Legazpi, Albay, increasing our credibility in creating a better environment for children, by increasing engagement in challenging conditions.

CaseStudy Box made to withstand Natural Disasters

CaseStudy was prototyped as something convenient that is able to withstand natural disasters, cut in power supply and connectivity. We worked on getting a device that was able to function as a computer, that was capable in storing, receiving and broadcasting sufficient information, but way less costly. Eventually, we found that Raspberry Pi was the key. Not only is it the cost-effective method to ensure that information can be contained and projected to a large group of students, where it is priced <$100, when you compare it with tablets that cost >$150, information is saved in the Raspberry Pi, so there is no need for internet connection to attain information.

What this means is folders containing a multitude of learning information and teaching materials in the form of PDFS, presentation slides and videos can be incorporated into a tiny chip, commonly spaced at 8GB.

CaseStudy Box to overcome lack of Electricity Supply

To solve the problem of lack of power supply, the little device can be powered by a portable power bank. We were able to source for a portable projector, with its own built-in battery, which can also be charged by a portable power bank. Holding classes without having to worry about a lack of electricity of plugs can modernise teaching for these students.

CaseStudy Box that is Waterproof and Shock-proof

Another advantage of using CaseStudy is that we considered logistical problems when bringing the unit around, hence we housed the devices in a waterproof and shock-proof ‘suitcase’, eliminating any problems that may be faced when transporting and setting up the unit. The Patatas is currently planning to bring CaseStudy to more communities in Kenya, Myanmar and Bangladesh. We are continuously expanding and reaching new places that need help.

What is Digi-Eskwela?

CaseStudy was only one of our many projects taken upon to improve conditions of less fortunate students worldwide. Another amazing project is our Digi-Eskwela, which strives to incorporate digitally advanced learning in the Tiwala Kids and Communities, which is exactly what our goals are – to use technology in innovative and efficient ways, by understanding our partners’ needs to complement their operations and forming a network between partners to create positive change.

In this digital age where technology is easily utilised for every single thing, to message, call, learn and play, the benefits to reap from improving technologically can only be better for communities who are still less developed. By using digital innovation to encourage and motivate children to learn despite the situation is a major pro, giving them an experience that they will remember forever, rather than supplying simple tools that is just sufficient.

Bringing First World Digital Learning to Third World

In order to have a stable education system, there must be changes and adaptations to newer alternatives for learning such as via e-learning. In addition to creating an environment that is suitable for schools, there is a need for better resources for the teachers and children to further improve the academia. For children living in a place of conflict or risk of conflict, the impacts of these events are detrimental.

In total, 75 million children have had their education disrupted by conflict or crisis, including natural disasters that destroy schools and the environment around them. Furthermore, less than half of the world’s refugee children are enrolled in school, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Worryingly, education has thus far been a very low priority in humanitarian aid to countries in conflict — and less than 3% of global humanitarian assistance was allocated to education in 2016.

Partner with us

If you have a community that is underprivileged and you are able to sponsor or help them out, get in touch with us. We will conduct a full assessment of the situation to gain a better understanding of what your community needs, before recommending a customised solution to suit your needs, work together with you to implement the project in your community and continue to support and offer our expertise on your challenging situation. You may contact us via email , or follow us on our Facebook page.

Without support, conflict-affected children lose out on the chance to reach their full potential and rebuild their communities. If you can make a difference, get in touch with us.

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