Marthe (25) attends classes from her own bed

It is Friday at Krokeide High School. The Social Studies class is about to begin. On 25-year-old Marthe Hajem Kjendseth’s desk stands a robot. Its eyes are lit - it means that Marthe is present and that the class can begin.

A robot in the classroom

When Marthe started at Krokeide High School, she wanted to attend lectures in person. Unfortunately, due to pain and fatigue, she and her teachers had to find an alternative way for her to attend some of the classes. It was decided that she would attend three half-days of teaching a week. In addition, she decided to test the AV1 robot on the days that she was unable to attend in person.

“The robot has worked really well since the day I got it. I follow the teaching from the bed, the sound is crisp, and the video is high-definition. Everything works a little better now that I have the robot, now that I am no longer bound to my desk when I feel ill”, says Marthe.

Marthe (25) attends the class via an iPad from her bed, whilst MCAT1 stands at her desk. Foto: Marthe Hajem Kjendseth & Tone Hagen Fanebust.

A natural part of the class

“We were very excited, and figured that it presented such an opportunity for us that we just had to test it out”, says Marthe’s teacher, Anne Line Asphaug.

The robot, or MCAT1 as Marthe calls it, has become a natural part of the class. The students and teachers like the robot, even though they would prefer to have Marthe there in person.

Marthe at school. Foto: Tone Hagen Fanebust.

“Marthe is a ray of sunshine, so of course we miss it when she is not here in person, but we wave to her and talk to her through the robot. The most important thing is that Marthe gets to attend classes, and that she is a part of the group, even though her health challenges this”, says a classmate of Marthe’s.

“We had group work with MCAT1, and it was almost as if Marthe was there herself,” says another classmate.

Attacked by a dangerous virus

It was during a trip to Kenya a little over five years ago that Marthe caught a West Nile virus infection. The virus attacked the central nervous system in her brain, causing a serious inflammation of both the lining of her brain and her spinal cord. For Marthe it resulted in a lengthy hospitalisation, but with the help of American doctors, she was eventually cured of the virus. Today she struggles with several after effects: nerve damage, pain in one of her legs, paralysis in the intestinal system and bladder, and chronic fatigue.

“I feel better now than what was thought possible at the start, and for that I am very thankful, but the process of recovery has been slow and painful. I used to spend all day in my wheelchair, I was paralysed and suffered excruciating pains. But I am a little better now. I still spend about 60 percent of my time in a wheelchair, and I still suffer a lot of pain, but a small improvement is a great improvement,” says Marthe. 

I feel seen and acknowledged

“It is an amazing opportunity for people with challenges similar to those I face, to be able to go to school, attend classes, and still know that they will get the rest they need when they have a bad day,” says Marthe.

Marthe, MCAT1 and her classmates. Foto: Tone Hagen Fanebust.

“The teachers are great. I have never encountered such a wonderful group of teachers at High School before. I feel seen and acknowledged, which is very important and reassuring. Then there are my amazing classmates, whose company I enjoy both in class and outside of school.”.

Written by: Tone Hagen Fanebust, Krokeide High School