Startup brings virtual reality to many schools

Would you go back to school? Many would answer no because of the volumes of theory they'd have to read through.

But what if I told you there is a technology that helps you visualise these theories?

For example, instead of explaining to you a boat riding experience or how high Mount Everest is, I show you the experience using virtual headsets.

Virtual Reality (VR) is designed to offer a more realistic experience and in Kenya, it's already enhancing education.

Njeri Ndonga (pictured), the co-founder and CEO of Ukwenza VR, says that this technology allows you to transport yourself to a virtual environment and experience that environment as if you were there.

"Have you ever travelled to Mount Everest? But in all the textbooks we learn that Mt Everest is the highest mountain. I would bet 99.9 per cent of our teachers have not been to Mt Everest, and yet they have to describe this to students, so their understanding is very limited," she said.

"The best thing for students to understand is for them to travel there but that's not possible, financially, logistically, and physically. So the next best thing is VR."

VR has been popular among gamers but it is now creating a buzz in education by bringing the world to classrooms.

For Ukwenza VR, their entry point is on social issues such as the effects of plastic pollution and climate change.

"Our focus has been on climate issues such as climate change and plastic pollution. We are looking to expand that to other issues but also to expand our reach to support the curriculum so that every child across Kenya can enjoy the benefits of VR and visual learning."

"We use virtual reality to teach social issues. Currently, we are focusing on conservation which falls under the umbrella of climate change. We also focus on plastic pollution and these are the things that we'd like the kids to have a better understanding of," said Ms Ndonga.

She notes that plastic pollution, for example, can be a boring topic for a student, but VR gives an interesting way to approach the topic.

Learners can travel to Thailand and see an ocean cleanup. They can also travel to a polluted place and see how birds are affected by plastic pollution because they confuse plastic for food.

"Think about kids living with disability, they can maybe travel to Mombassa but their ability to go deep sea diving might be limited. We are creating equity and also expanding our understanding of education and approach to delivering knowledge," said Ms Ndonga.

A VR camera has six lenses, these lenses are able to take a 360 video of everything around. When you wear the VR headset and you look around, you can see everything that someone who was standing on location can see. That allows for more context and encourages self-exploration.

As VR technology continues to advance for more practical applications, schools that can afford headsets are slowly making more use of emerging technology to provide learners with more interactive lesson.