Five Lund University students have been declared to be some of the world's brightest business minds, landing a top six position in the prestigious Hult Prize competition in London.
Five university friends from different backgrounds, nationalities and study programmes came together in a cold December to crack a fairly hard nut – solving one of the planet's biggest challenges in early childhood education.
Around the globe, more than a hundred million children under the age of six who are living in slums do not get the quality education they need to prepare them for primary school and to be competitive in society. Through the Hult Prize challenge, students were asked to be part of the solution and develop accessible and affordable programmes capable of delivering quality early education to millions of underprivileged children.
Daniel Marino Reis Fideles (from Brazil) is studying industrial engineering at Lund University. But he has a passion for education and was intrigued when his friend Gerald Perry Marin (from the Philippines) told him about the Early Childhood Learning theme for the 2015 Hult Prize challenge.
“I knew we had to get a team together and apply”, he says. “I am passionate about it and hope to work with education in the future. Instead of producing things, I want to produce people, so to speak.”
The Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to launching the world's next wave of social entrepreneurs. It encourages the world's brightest business minds to compete in teams with innovative ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises.
Daniel and Gerald joined forces with food technology students Anindyaningrum Chrisant Rystiasih (from Indonesia) and Vita Jarolimkova (from the Czech Republic), and later on psychology student Monica Yanuardani (also from Indonesia) joined the team.
“We stayed up many nights to come up with our contribution and solution to the problem”, says Monica. “In fact, we had some strange meeting times because some team members were doing thesis work abroad, so we had many Skype discussions across different time zones.”
In the two weeks before the regional competition was to take place in London (there were five regionals around the globe) the team met frequently to finalise their contribution, and on 15 March they were among the 50 teams that got to present their idea.
“We want to provide a complete education for mothers and children by producing a booklet that contains learning elements for children aged 0–2 and 3–6. The booklet will be distributed to mothers/carers in slum areas in developing countries, mainly in the cities. We want to educate the mothers on how to make use of the booklet by cooperating with university students to provide training in the community. The booklet will be comprehensive and educate the mothers/carers about cognitive child development milestones and what activities could be useful for this age group. Most of them have never had an opportunity to learn about this before. The book contains information about elements of child development, activities to reach the development goals and a tracking chart as well, so hopefully it is very practical! We hope to involve local health clinics as well, where mothers go for health checks with their babies, as a possible contact point for the community.”
In London the 50 teams were divided into six rooms. In each room the teams presented and were judged by a panel of four judges. The best team from each room presented in the final round at night. The Lund University team were the champions in their room, and got to present in the final round and finished in the top six. But Daniel and Monica are not upset that they didn’t come out on top; they are still hoping to develop their idea further, says Daniel.
“We might enter the online competition, which serves as a wildcard round in the challenge. The winning online team gets a spot in the Global Finals, which are hosted by President Bill Clinton, and the prize is USD 1 million in seed capital to start up the business. Now that would be cool!”