Children in Africa…
When I was a child, there were many times that I would get a dinner I didn’t fully appreciate. I was never a fan of peas, and would often get upset if all I got to drink with my meal was water. My grandmother would often say “Starving children all over the world would be happy to have peas and water for dinner.” So, with dismay, I would finish my meal. All too often, this is the most effort that is put into teaching children about the plight of others all across the world. And to be honest, this method never resonated with me. As a child, I was more concerned with video games and music then the daily life of people in third world countries. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly understood the hardships faced by others across the world. My education on the matter started when I saw a documentary showing exactly what the daily life of these individuals entailed.
Virtual Reality as Entertaining Education
Video games are still a huge part of children’s lives. So much so that there has been an increase in the use of game theory in order to teach children in a manner that intrigues them. With the recent development of virtual reality devices and software, the educational opportunities have increased dramatically. Individuals can use their devices to visit virtual representations of historically significant locations as well as museums with culturally significant works of art. And all of this can be done as a manner of entertainment, teaching a child along the way.
This opens up an amazing opportunity to teach children about the plight of poverty-stricken third world countries. We no longer have to tell our children about the plight of others, we can help them to see and experience those struggles with their own eyes via the same technology and gadgets that they use for their daily entertainment. Even beyond that, the experience can be formatted in a way in which the child is given objectives that they must achieve in order to successfully “win” the game.
For example, one of the major issues facing these poverty-stricken areas is the lack of food and drinkable water. That is something that can be difficult for a child to grasp. If a child is thirsty in a modern area all they have to do is go to their kitchen and get a glass of water. Even more than that, if they don’t like the tap water they can simply get a bottle of water from a convenience store. Beyond simply having water around us, we have choices in the kind and quality of the water that we consume. But what if there was no tap in our home? What if there were no convenience stores or grocery stores where we could go to get our water? Even beyond this, what if the rivers, lakes, and streams that were around us were polluted to the point that we were unable to drink that water? What would we do if there was no water available for us to drink?
Now, what about food? Edible food is just as scarce as drinkable water in many of these areas. In such areas, there may be a very limited amount of food available for men, women, and children to eat. In fact, nearly one-third of all child-related deaths in third world countries are attributed to hunger-related diseases. There are a staggering 2.6 million of these deaths every single year. That equates to a child dying every five seconds from issues related to a lack of food.
Yet another issue that these people face is a severe lack of available health care. More than 800 million of these people have no access to any form of healthcare. This means that an illness that is easily curable with common medicines can become a serious life-threatening illness. A simple cut can become infected, and because there are no antibiotics available, that infection can easily lead to death.
How can we use VR to educate our children?
These are just a few examples of the difficulties faced by those living in third world countries. So how can we use virtual reality to teach our children about these issues? By building a digital environment that replicates the living environment of third world countries, we can task our children with attempting to do what those less fortunate people do every day, survive. And the fact of the matter is that survival video games are very popular. Once in the virtual environment, all the child has to do is complete objectives that are required to ensure survival, food, water, and preventing illness. The best approach would be to have thirst, hunger, and health meters that must be addressed in order to survive.
Locating drinkable water would likely be the first objective that a child would receive in this virtual world. By factoring in water that is dirty and would cause death, the difficulty of this objective increases. Since water is required soonest in a survival situation, the water meter would decrease faster than the others, followed by food and then health. So, as the child looks for drinkable water, the other meters slowly decrease. If the child is able to locate the limited sources of drinkable water, they then have to locate food. If food or water is acquired, it can be simulated that it is tainted and causes health issues, forcing the child to search out medical assistance.
In addition to this, during these searches, the child will be able to experience other issues that third world countries face, such as pollution and the potential for violence. If the child is successful in locating food or water after wading through trash and pollution, they may have to hide that food or water in order to keep others from taking it away from them, as there are hundreds of other characters around them that are doing exactly what they are doing, and may resort to violence in order to get food and water.
This can open many eyes
It may come across as gritty and dark, but that is the point. In order for our children to fully understand the plight of others in third world countries, they need to see it with their own eyes. And with virtual reality, they can do that from the comfort of their own home.