Families in need throughout the western Bay of Plenty are getting their children online for school, thanks to 50 Chromebooks funded by a group of funders.
The 50 laptops for families in need have been funded by Western Bay of Plenty’s Covid-19 Recovery Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council.
The collaborative initiative also involves local businesses and community groups, with SociaLink, the umbrella organisation for social agencies and charities, overseeing the project and distributing devices through its social service providers.
Trustpower has donated 50 free 12-month internet connections so whānau can afford internet access. Kanorau Digital provides Chromebook tutoring at family homes.
Kelsey’s* family of five struggled to participate in online learning since they didn’t have a reliable device. She’d spent $2000 on a device for her 15 year old when he was at Intermediate, but now he’s in Year 11 it needs replacing.
The others, aged five to 10, not far behind so the device provided through Families Achieving Balance has been a lifesaver.
“It’s just so difficult to afford what the children need, and there’s pressure from the children and their teachers. The 10 year old now needs to bring a device to school but there’s $200 in uniforms, stationery, school trips – there’s barely enough for groceries.”
She says the children were all excited when the Chromebook was delivered. They needed internet access for homework and her “extremely old” laptop couldn’t keep up. The family lives in the country just outside Tauranga, where reception can be patchy, and Kylie isn’t able to work after an accident.
“Everything is digital now. The children know they have to share it for homework and it’s not for one child. The oldest is battling on with his old laptop.”
Heather is homeschooling, with her two grandchildren, Raelynne (2) and Sharmain (5) in Pāpāmoa. She says the Chromebook has been essential to access the resources Sharmain needs, and has also helped Raelynne, who has been slow to speak.
“I have a little iPad, but it’s not enough for school work. It didn’t take long to set it up and now Sharmain is ripping ahead.
“She does writing as well, so that’s when Raelynne gets her chance to use the Chromebook and it’s made such a difference to her speech. I don’t get a look-in.”
SociaLink General Manager Liz Davies says the Covid lockdown accentuated the digital divide.
“Given the need to be able to access services, education, working from home and connecting with loved ones digitally, not having a device or internet connection puts many people at a disadvantage.
“For this reason SociaLink applied for funding to help those on low incomes to connect, learn and work,” she says.
*not her real name.