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From containers to classrooms: converting capitalism’s swords into ploughshares
  1. N Sellathurai,
  2. S Clarke,
  3. A N Williams
  1. Child Development Centre, Northampton General Hospital, Northampton NN1 5BD, UK; anwdoctors.org.uk

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    There are some ideas, which, when one hears them for the first time, come as a breath of fresh air, and capture one’s imagination. Thare Machi—The Starfish Initiative—is one of these.

    It converts shipping containers into classrooms for the developing world. Each container/classroom has eight IT desks, offering interactive lessons in the student’s own language using DVD technology. No previous experience is required, nor is the ability to read or write. It is particularly designed to empower women and children, but it is open to all. In many parts of the world, women and girls as young as 8 are trapped, by their society, by their family, by their circumstances, by their poverty, and by their ignorance.

    Girls are perceived to be costly so societies all over the world have developed ways of cutting down the expense. Education is regarded as one such luxury.

    Shipping containers are a universal currency for the transport of goods and can be seen as a mechanism for the exploitation of the impoverished developing world by the West. Although their advent has revolutionised commerce they are not without their problems and issues regarding their dumping are being increasingly recognised.

    Already the first containers are in use and supported by their local communities. The project aims to have several hundred of these containers in Africa and India within the next few years, with over 100 interactive lessons being available. Like seeding a desert of ignorance, these containers offer the first steps towards education. For many of the most deprived people on this planet without access to schools or teachers, this is their first real chance.

    There are no quick fix solutions to the problems of injustice faced by the developing world, but this project and others like it provide a welcome step forward. Paediatricians with an interest in international child Health should strongly support this and other such noble endeavours.


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    Acknowledgments

    We would like to thank the Medical Illustration department of Northampton General Hospital

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    Footnotes

    • Further information is available from www.starfish-initiative.org

    • A fully operational container classroom was exhibited during the entire 2004 Annual RCPCH Meeting in York

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