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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

The Internet connects classrooms across the post-tsunami Maldives

UNICEF Image: Maldives: Online education
© UNICEF Maldives/2006/Taylor
With help from UNICEF, broadband Internet connections were introduced to schools across the Maldives.

By Bronwyn Curran

NILANDHOO ISLAND, Maldives, December 2006 – Online education is revolutionizing learning in the Maldives as UNICEF strives to ‘build back better’ after the tsunami. 

As part of the rehabilitation effort, UNICEF has introduced broadband-enabled Teacher Resource Centres (TRCs), which will link together 200 atolls in the Maldives.

“Land is a scarcity here. People are so scattered. This is the type of place where people can really benefit from e-learning,” says UNICEF Representative for the Maldives Ken Maskall.

Interactivity in the classroom

Nilandhoo, one of the Maldives’ 200 inhabited islands, has been the first to set up a TRC. At the Atoll Education Centre, students have started interacting with the Smart Board, a key feature of the TRCs. 

Using the Smart Board’s touch-sensitive screen, Headmaster Abdullah projects a biology lesson for his class via a website. He then invites 16-year-old Aishath to correctly name chest organs. She approaches the board, places a hand over an image of a lung and glides it across the diagram. With a special pen she writes ‘lungs’ on the screen.

© UNICEF Maldives/2006/Taylor
Assistant Principal Abdulla Ahmed stands in a classroom outfitted by UNICEF with an Internet connection and other resources.

“Before the Smart Board, there wasn’t much interactivity and classes weren’t much fun,” says Aishath, who dreams of becoming a teacher.

Interactive learning methods like the Smart Board drew teacher Ali, 28, to move from Bileydhoo Island where he had taught for nine years.

“It teaches me to be a child-friendly teacher. I get lesson plans each day by e-mail. We can also get a lot of information online about our subjects and teaching techniques,” he says.

Recovering on Meedhoo

Fifteen minutes by boat from Nilandhoo is the island of Meedhoo, which was submerged by two metres of water after the tsunami. During the disaster, the only school, Dhaalu Atoll, was seriously damaged.

The school has since been upgraded with new furniture and a new block of six extra classrooms. UNICEF also helped the school convert to single-shift teaching. Most other schools in the Maldives still hold separate morning and evening classes.

“UNICEF built us a pre-school. Before, we had nowhere for little kids to learn. The main school has 6 new classrooms and 10 toilets. Everyone has clean drinking water due to rainwater tanks. People, especially the poor, now have adequate facilities,” says Meedhoo island chief Shideeq Ali.




December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on how online education has revolutionized learning for children and young people in the Maldives.
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