Young refugees in Kenya experience London’s National Gallery in virtual reality trip

Young refugees in Kenya experience London’s National Gallery in virtual reality trip

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Children wearing VR headsets

The experience commemorates the International Day for Education (Image: Vodafone Foundation/National Gallery)

The experience, documented to mark the International Day for Education, is believed to be the world’s first live VR school trip for refugee students.

Many of the young people, aged between 13 and 22, have spent their entire lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp under the protection of the office of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 

The camp, one of the largest in the world, is home to more than 190,000 people who have fled conflict in neighbouring countries.

Nyagoa, 18, who was born in the camp after her mother fled the war in South Sudan, said: “It was really wow! I really enjoyed it. It felt like I was there with Lisa, together. It looked just the way that I always imagined and I really enjoyed it because it felt just like I was in London.”

Former National Gallery trustee and artist Lisa Milroy has delivered a programme of practical art sessions, called Hands On Art Workshops, for primary and secondary school students in Kakuma Refugee Camp since 2015. 

The workshops are conducted from London using digital video conference technology and tablet-based learning provided by Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Schools.

Now, with the help of 360 cameras, connectivity and virtual reality headsets, the students have been able to see what it feels like to step out of the camp into an iconic gallery over 6,000 miles away.

Tech-enabled workshops provide students in Kakuma the opportunity to engage with art-related activities for the first time, as art is not widely offered as part of the Kenyan national curriculum. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to share an experience of the National Gallery and my thoughts about the paintings with the students in Kakuma through technology,” said Milroy. 

“The live virtual reality tour makes it possible for the students to get a feeling for what it’s like to wander through the galleries and enjoy the paintings as objects in a space, to get a sense of their fabulous material form, and encounter them each with its particular setting.”

The tour featured a selection of nine paintings based on the subject of ‘time’, which has shaped several Hands On Art Workshops. Kilroy started the tour with a look at The Avenue at Middelharnis, 1689 by Meindert Hobbema and concluded with the recent wall painting Messengers, 2019, by the celebrated British artist Bridget Riley.

Tour guide stands next to painting as she explains it

The workshops use video conference technology and tablet-based learning (Image: Vodafone Foundation/National Gallery)

A highlight of the tour was Vincent Van Gogh’s Chair, which was the subject of the final part of the students’ tour.

After the tour, the students had a live session with Milroy for a conversation about their impressions of the paintings. This was followed by a practical workshop where the students were invited to create their own paintings based on Van Gogh’s Chair, 1888 in the National Gallery.

“It’s a very emotional moment because with the guidance of Lisa Milroy, one of the UK’s leading artists, we are bringing the beauty of these paintings in the Gallery to these students,” said Andrew Dunnett, Vodafone group director sustainable development goals, sustainable business and the Vodafone Foundation.

“The Vodafone Foundation especially created the live VR tour for Kakuma Refugee Camp art students. This is what connected education is all about for Vodafone. Through our technology we can provide connectivity to connect young refugees to the wider world and opportunities that exist beyond the camp.”

The National Gallery in London is committed to engaging people with art and using the latest technology to bring it to a wider audience.

Since 2016, students in Kakuma have been receiving a digital education through Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Schools (INS) programme in partnership with UNHCR. INS connects classrooms to the internet and provides tablets for the students, a laptop for the teacher, high quality and localised digital educational content and teacher training, along with access to a wealth of curated online content and resources. To date, the programme has benefitted more than 86,500 students and over 1,000 teachers across 36 INS schools and eight refugee camps in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR have committed to expand the INS programme to benefit more than 500,000 young refugee students.

Two girls wear VR headsets

The camp is home to more than 190,000 people who have fled neighbouring countries (Image: Vodafone Foundation/National Gallery)

How Vodafone Foundation created the first live-streamed VR school trip for Kakuma refugee students

Using Vodafone’s connectivity, a 5G Gigacube, the latest hardware and global 360 video distribution the live VR experience was possible. The film crew moved and streamed in 360 at the same time.

1. Live streaming from the National Gallery

A 5G Gigacube was used to provide a stable internet connection across the gallery floor

An Insta360 Pro2 camera streamed in 360, with real-time image stitching that meant the children experienced moving from room to room in the gallery just anyone visiting the gallery in the real world. The camera was controlled remotely using the camera’s software 

A live stream was sent to an unlisted video sharing channel that was stable throughout the 81-minute trip. Mobile power banks were used to keep the production running

Images were recorded in 8k on the camera and streamed in 4k, 30 Frames per second and 15-bit rate

2. Viewing in Kakuma

Three different internet connections were used (2 x 4G modems and Vodafone Foundation’s Instant School Network connection)

Girl wears a VR headset during the virtual tour

The latest technology was used for the project, including a 5G Gigacube (Image: Vodafone Foundation/National Gallery)

Students used Oculus Go VR headsets and tablet/laptop access for 360 viewing

360 images of Trafalgar Square were preloaded into the viewing experience, so the students would experience arriving at the gallery in a way that was as close as possible to a real school trip

Vodafone Foundation

Vodafone Foundation is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes. Vodafone Foundation’s Connecting for Good programme combines charitable giving and technology to make a difference in the world. Vodafone Foundation is an independent UK registered charity, registered charity number 1089625.

Since March 2019, Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR have deployed 36 Instant Network Schools benefitting over 86,000 refugee students and 1,000 teachers across eight refugee camps in Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The INS programme has had a significant impact in refugee camps by ensuring access to accredited, quality, and relevant learning opportunities for refugees and the communities that host them.

UNHCR

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home. We work in over 130 countries, using our expertise to protect and care for millions of people.

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