The Hello Hub: Nigerian Free Solar Powered Education Kiosk

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Seven months after terrorists kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, many local students are afraid to go to school. In other parts of the country, children don’t go to school because schools don’t exist; cities and villages can’t afford enough teachers. Across the nation, more than 10.5 million children aren’t in school, more than in any other part of the world.

One Nigerian city now has a prototype of a new type of education that doesn’t involve a school or teachers. The Hello Hub is an outdoor computer kiosk hooked up to free, solar-powered Internet and filled with hundreds of educational games. It’s rugged enough to handle dust storms, rain, and thousands of users. Built and owned by the community, it’s available for anyone–adults or children–to use anytime.

The project was inspired in part by Sugata Mitra, the 2013 TED Prize winner who argues that schools as we know them are obsolete. Mitra has shown in experiments that self-directed learning works; children in slums or remote locations who were given a computer, and zero instruction, were able to teach themselves things like English and even the basics of biotechnology. In those experiments, the computers were eventually lost or broken, so the Hello Hubs take a different approach.

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“We don’t show up in a community and build a Hello Hub for them,” says MacMillan. “If we were to do that, it would take a day to knock up a Hello Hub, put it on Facebook, and get out. But it wouldn’t last, and I don’t think people would value it or use it as much as they do. I think it would be likely to go unmaintained after a while–that’s what Mitra’s research shows.”

Instead of giving a donation, the project involves the entire community. “We take parts of the tech and the expertise, but we don’t have what we need to complete it,” MacMillan explains. The community has to help negotiate for the solar power, find the land, feed and transport the visitors from the organization–and help build the computer kiosk from scratch, sometimes building and taking apart the server several times so everyone who wants to can learn how it works.

Find out more at http://www.hellohubs.org, thanks for reading.

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