RS 2: Benin

Travelling classroom bridges digital divide in Benin

The Times Live published an article written by the AFP, Agence France-Presse, the world’s oldest and third largest news agency in the modern world. “Travelling classroom bridges digital divide in Benin” was published in the South African daily newspaper on February 14th, 2019. The article begins by talking about a 11-year-old Ambroise. He lives in the rural part of Benin, which is in Africa. He would rush to finish his homework so that he could go to computer class. The only other time he had used a computer was at a photocopy shop. His computer class would take place in a trailer designed by BloLab, a non-profit out of Cotonou, Benin. The 43-foot-long trailer contained 12 solar panels and was full of computers, which a few kids have seen much less touched ever before. Four out of 48 kids in Ambroise’s class have touched a computer before. The goal of the mobile classroom was the familiarize kids with computers. BloLab’s founder, Medard Agbayazon, states that the digital divide is not only a concept but a reality. There is a huge digital gab between the towns and villages in Benin. It is rare to find a computer or phone in the villages, but the towns are full of technology and even have cybercafés. According to The Regulatory Authority for Electronic and Postal Communication’s 2018 report, the internet penetration rate is 42.2%, and 95% of those accesses the web through mobile phones. This is where the idea of a mobile classroom with desks, computers, and fans came from. BloLab rents a cab to tow the trailer that was donated by Africa Puzzle, a Swiss-based charity. The mobile classroom stays in one place for a month at a time. So far, the classroom has gone to two places since August. There are 5 skills classes offered per week. These two-hour classes are free of charge. The software that is used in the mobile classroom is free to the public. In addition to the classes, they learn to build homemade computers in jerrycans. They use recycled pieces from machines as well as things donated by businesses or charities. “This lesson familiarizes them with the inside of the computer and shows them they can make their own without much money,” Raoul Letchede, one of the two trainers said. The idea of the mobile classroom is to make children want to use digital technology. Fuillanume Gnonlonfoun, the teacher, is happy for his students and states that nothing can be done without digital technology. The school he works at has no computers; until real ones arrive in the community, people and teachers will have to build their own.

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