In 2013, Norwegian union leaders in Hydro took the initiative to launch an iPad project for children and youth in Paragominas in Brazil. The project is now delivering positive results that encourage further investment.
As a result of a partnership between Hydro, the trade union Industri Energi and local authorities in Brazil, children and youth in the city of Paragominas in 2013 received access to 15 iPad tablet computers. The goal was to learn more about the opportunities computers can offer.
Before and after school care program
By the strategic use of apps that promote learning in both language and mathematics, the project aims to teach the children about using computer tools and to stimulate learning. The iPad project is part of a wider before and after school care program called CASECA, offered at a center with the same name.
"CASECA is similar to the SFO program in the Norwegian school system, and the feedback we have received from Brazil indicates that participation here is very important to ensure that students do not drop out of the school system," say Sten Roar Martinsen and Billy Fredagsvik from Industri Energi, both central employee representatives in Hydro, and active initiators of the project in 2013.
Good feedback and results
In a recent survey involving 117 children at the center, 91 percent answered that the iPads helped them learn better, and 83 percent of respondents said the tablet computers made them want to participate in the voluntary before and after school program more often.
"It is really encouraging to see the joy among the children who make use of this offering. All the feedback we have received on the project is positive," say the employee representatives.
The project, called iPads4Learning, is led by the NGO Africa StartUp, which already has a similar project in Gambia. The head of Africa StartUp, Marit Olderheim, says the main goal of the project is to inspire children to learn by using the technology, and that English and math skills are particularly important.
"So we use applications where games and play are combined with learning. It is a recipe that has proven to be very effective wherever it has been introduced," says Olderheim.
Reduce school dropouts
The overall goal of CASECA is to prevent child labor and strengthen family ties. The center, operated by the local municipality, offers a variety of activities for children either before or after the school day begins. Activities offered include sports, music, dance, English and now information technology through the iPad project.
Hydro owns and operates one of the world's largest bauxite mines in Paragominas and the Norwegian primary metal plants produce aluminium from alumina which comes from the bauxite mined in Paragominas.
"The opportunity we are offering children and young people at the center is important for the entire community in Paragominas. It's nice to be able to help give them better learning opportunities, while introducing them to a world-renowned product that uses a lot of aluminium. It shows them a little of what can be made from the bauxite that comes from their local area," say Martinsen and Fredagsvik.