April 23, 2020

Free computers to help marginalised children learn during coronavirus school closures

Children will benefit from access to technology when learning from home

Photo credit: UN Photo

Many US students don't have digital access during the classrooms shutdown - but thousands will be helped by a new partnership made possible by the REACT initiative.

Their schools are shut and they don't have access to digital equipment. But thousands of children from low-income families will now have the opportunity to learn from home during the coronavirus crisis.

The American students will be given free computers in a partnership announced as part of the REACT initiative that enables businesses to support education in emergencies.

The United States may have the world's largest economy - but the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fact that nearly one in five of its students from kindergarten to 12th grade do not have computers or good internet access at home.

The announcement sees the technology company HP Inc. partner with the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) and non-profit Comp-U-Dopt to provide equipment to disadvantaged students affected by school closures in Houston, Chicago and Dallas.   

GBC-Education, an initiative of Theirworld, launched the REACT (Rapid Education Action) programme in 2018. It forms partnerships between the business community, organisations and school systems to respond to emergencies and disruptions in education.

More than 1.5 billion students from preschool to university have had their schools shut down by the pandemic.

This equipment will unlock access to distance education for these children and help them continue learning with their peers with equal access to digital tools.

Per Megan Steckly, CEO of Comp-U-Dopt

“In the past few weeks, being able to access a computer, the internet or printed material has made the difference between continuing to learn or falling behind," said Justin van Fleet, GBC-Education's Executive Director. "The Covid-19 crisis is disproportionally affecting children from underserved communities by increasing the learning gap and digital divide.”

HP Inc is donating 7,600 new monitors to Comp-U-Dopt, which will assemble and distribute units to children of low-income families in the three cities. 

These efforts are part of a broader push by the company to support education around the world during the pandemic. Alex Cho, HP's President of Personal Systems, said: “With so many students in the US impacted by the Covid-19 school closures, an important and urgent part of our mission is to help keep them connected to instruction. 

"Thanks to the partnership with Global Business Coalition for Education, we're able to help them adapt to the new normal of remote learning and bridge a widening digital divide.”

From next week, Houston-based Comp-U-Dopt will start distributing the equipment for free to children in the Texan city and then in Chicago and Dallas. 

Computers will help children study while schools are closed

Its CEO Per Megan Steckly said: “This equipment will unlock access to distance education for these children and help them continue learning with their peers with equal access to digital tools.”

Public schools in Texas are expected to remain closed until the summer. That's a big challenge to some of the poorer school districts in Houston. In Alief, administrators suspect as many as 25% of their students don't have digital access, which led to them printing more than a million pages of coursework.

“In the virtual environment, teachers are interacting with children to some degree and teachers can give immediate feedback to students or semi-immediate feedback,” Kathy Jahn of Alief Independent School District told the Houston Chronicle.

For the past few weeks, GBC-Education has mobilised its members to help limit the impact of school closures. More than 30 companies have stepped forward to provide tools, services and equipment which are available for educators. Learn more about what companies are offering.

“Before this crisis, on any single day 260 million children were not going to school in the world. Now, with schools closures more than 1.5 billion children are impacted," said GBC-Education's van Fleet. 

"We are very grateful for HP and Comp-U-Dopt to help children in Houston, Dallas and Chicago to continue learning.”

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