Instant Network Schools (INS), which began educating children in refugee camps a decade ago, are increasingly embedded in host communities, as Vodafone Foundation Trustees, Joakim Reiter and Leanne Wood found on a visit to Cairo that coincided with World Teacher’s Day.
There are over 110 million refugees or displaced people worldwide today, a 20% increase in the last year. About one in every 78 people globally has been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and the growing climate crisis. Almost half of refugees are under the age of 18 and will spend on average 20 years displaced.
Since 2014, Vodafone and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, have operated Instant Network Schools as a free digital learning programme to enable teachers, refugees, and children in host communities, to access quality, localised digital education content. There are now 92 INS in six countries: DRC; Egypt; Kenya; Mozambique; South Sudan; and Tanzania.
The INS programme contributes to the UN Sustainable Development goal of providing a quality education for every child by 2030.
Egypt will have the largest number of INS schools with 48 by the end of the month that will benefit around 100,000 students each month. There are no camps in Egypt – the government has integrated refugees into urban areas and major cities like Cairo, Giza and Alexandria.
As a result, Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR have partnered with the country’s Ministry of Education to put INS facilities into public schools hosting refugees. The 1,200 teachers providing education for 46,000 students find that they can better tailor lessons for individual students by using material from the internet rather than static textbooks.
The INS programme will expand into up to 300 schools by end March 2026, thanks to a €13 million cash investment by Vodafone Foundation, as well as Vodafone providing free connectivity to the schools and UNHCR matching that investment.
Egypt provides a model for providing education services to refugees and nationals together in host countries moving away from camp settings.
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