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[LIMA] In a remote village of the Peruvian Andes, a robot has taken over the classroom.
Created by a science and technology teacher, Kipi the robot speaks the local language, Quechua, as well as Spanish. Kipi is making sure that students do not miss out on classes that were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this country of 33 million inhabitants, just 30 per cent of the population has a stable internet connection and rural areas lack electricity. This means students cannot access the virtual classes that the Ministry of Education broadcasts on radio and television.
“Kipi was born because of the pandemic,” teacher Walter Velásquez tells SciDev.Net. Velásquez is calling from Colcabamba, a district in the region of Huancavelica, almost 3000 metres above sea level. The village is nestled in one of the most dangerous areas of the Peruvian Andes and is a corridor for drug trafficking and some remaining members of the rebel group Shining Path.
“I wanted my robot to be female as a tribute to a girl that walks almost three hours to school from her community.”
Walter Velásquez, science and technology teacher
So, he quickly devoted himself to building a robot with whatever materials he had available at his Centre for Creativity and Inquiry. He created the centre ten years ago to draw students at his school, Santiago Antunez de Magiolo, towards science and technology.
“I wanted my robot to be female as a tribute to a girl that walks almost three hours to school from her community.
“Also, to highlight the women of role, because there is still great discrimination here — fathers and brothers are the first to eat; if it is necessary to pull out kids from school, girls are the first option before the boys. So, I wished to highlight the important role of women,” Velásquez explains.
And because the students do not have printers, Velásquez has also made ‘Kipi books’ so they can practice reading..
“Because of the lockdown all roads are closed, but they allow us to pass. ‘Here comes Kipi and the teacher, open up all the roadblocks’, the guards shout,” Velásquez says.
“It is a paradigm shift. He is doing things that awaken, that make students see their reality in a different way and learn that there are things beyond their immediate environment,” Baldeón says.
"It also has to do with digital skills, that is, adequately prepared teachers and parents capable of accompanying their children in educational tasks,” he says.