Hub Heroes. One Year On.

A project that set out to bring much needed access to education by enabling families in the Hub communities to learn at home has been a huge success.

In fact, what’s exciting is that the impact the project is making in the communities is extending far beyond what we first imagined exceeding our expectations and taking on an inspiring life of its own. 

We have learnt so much throughout the project, listening and learning from the Hub Heroes, adapting and changing the project to ensure it met the needs of the community. 

This pilot put 100 tablets loaded with onebillion software into the homes of 100 families surrounding Busawula Hello Hub in Uganda, providing literacy and numeracy education to approximately 500 children. 

Mothers were responsible for the tablets and were encouraged to come to the Hub to charge them and meet with our local team to feedback on their experience. You can read our first blog which has more detail about the pilot here. But this is arguably a more interesting update, about what transpired once we began the programme…

At-home devices in time for COVID-19 

Little did we know as we started selecting our Hub Hero families in mid-March 2020, that ahead of us was a global pandemic which would underline the critical need for access to digital education globally and also highlight the steep digital divide between those who have access to hardware, and those who do not. As schools closed in Uganda, we realised that these small tablets would be even more valuable than we could have ever imagined. 

The Onetab tablets were constantly in use. We imagined that each onetab would be used by five siblings, but we found that they were passed around by neighbours in rotation giving access to more than double that number of kids. If you walked along the street in Busawula, you’d see one child playing on her onetab on the step of her mother’s tomato stall, and further along an impenetrable circle of brothers in their yard learning from another device. Their mothers and jajas (grandmothers) will tell you that their children are always asking to learn on the onetab and that they are improving in areas like counting and spelling, as well as generally gaining new found confidence.

Feedback 

With award winning, state of the art software provided by onebillion we were pretty sure the tablets would be a success but through our meetings with the Hub Heroes, we learned that there were things we could improve. The regular use of the tablets in some cases showed they were not as sturdy as we had anticipated and that children wanted more activities on the tablets. 

With the second roll-out of 80 tablets this February, we’re now testing out a new tablet which is more rugged, and we have added on a new application on top of the onebillion software which tells traditional Ugandan fairy tales to children that they can read along to. We continue to trial and research new software and hardware to enhance the tablets even further. 

The power of women’s groups 

500+ children with noticeable improvement in numeracy and literacy during a global pandemic: the first triumph of our pilot! 

The really wonderful discovery of our Hub Heroes pilot was the power of the mother’s groups that formed as a result of the programme. 

Bringing the mothers together at the Hub to use the internet, learn this new technology, and share their experience was a key part of the project. However, despite wanting their children to access tablets, it took time to persuade incredibly busy mothers that these meetings would be worth their time. 

If they were to come to the meeting each week, the women also wanted to learn vocational skills like baking and crafts. Whilst this was not how we had first imagined the meetings to look like, we understood how these skills could directly impact potential means of income. We built this into the weekly meetings in addition to teaching the mothers how to use the tablets at their Hub, and we saw how these worked wonderfully together! 

One woman from the group proceeded to teach the rest of the mothers skills in baking and decorating cakes for sale. Hub Hero Maureen is still selling her queen cakes at the Hub today as a result of what she learnt in that class. Next, the women wanted to improve their English, so one of the women spent some weeks teaching the rest of the group simple phrases. And so it went on, a skills sharing, collaborative class where each woman brought her own skill to the table and shared it with the others. The women also started a savings group, each woman committing to bring 2500 Ugandan Shillings each week that would then be used for loans for business proposals at the end of the year. 

The fact that the Hub Heroes programme brought these women together was an achievement in itself. But, what was slowly realised throughout the course of the weeks, was that the internet could provide the resources necessary to continue learning, past the point of existing knowledge in the community. . After the English classes, the women were able to use google to look up words they didn’t know. In the baking class, the women watched videos on new styles of cake decorating and researched ingredient substitutes when an ingredient recommended in one recipe wasn’t easily available in a corner shop in Busawula. 

Gradually, the women requested more comprehensive tablet training because they had realised the benefit of the internet and technology for their own lives. We taught them how to use the internet, set up an email, type with two hands, use the tools on the tablets. New women who were not even part of the onetab rollout joined because they saw their female friends learning so frequently at the Hub. We started seeing a higher presence of women in general using the Hub.

Women in Tech 

The mothers and grandmothers told us that we needed to teach their older daughters these skills too, so from their request, our WiTU programme was born. Read here about how we’re working with cohorts of out of school teenage girls to teach a new life and computer skills course on top of Hub Heroes. 

Our Hub Heroes are incredible women who joined the programme last March because they wanted their children to have access to digital education. They told us that the onetabs have been a lifeline for their families during the COVID pandemic. What’s wonderful is that they, and a whole cohort of women in their community, have ended up learning how to use the Hello Hub for themselves, too. 

What’s next? 

Having seen the incredible impact of this project we are ready to scale this programme. This pilot took place at two of our Hubs in Kampala, and we now wish to bring the benefits of this project to the women and children of the communities across the entire Hub network and all future Hubs too.

Supporting this project is not only providing the means of accessing at-home learning for 1000’s of children but is also supporting the women in the community in their everyday lives and helping to create more opportunities for their future.

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