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Last week, on one of my Government calls, I was surprised to hear that it is still a challenge for many New Zealand students to access a device for lockdown learning. The Ministry of Education is continuing to provide device support, prioritising year 9-13 students most impacted. However, many students throughout New Zealand still don’t have a suitable digital device to learn on during lockdown. How is this possible?
If we can spend $44 million to encourage businesses to use more digital technologies, shouldn’t we be able to spend $100 million to make sure that every New Zealand student has a digital device? If we want a safe and prosperous future New Zealand, no kid can be left behind!
OK, so I only guessed it would cost $100 million, but you get the idea! On this point, if we know the lifetime economic cost on society of someone going to prison, surely we should be able to calculate the lifetime economic cost of students not having access to digital devices? Plus, the missed opportunity to learn appropriate skills to be productive when they finish school. My instincts tell me this is an essential investment required to improve access to digital devices and digital education for our ākonga (students) and rangatahi (young people).
If you want to help, there is a great not-for-profit initiative called Recycle a Device (RAD). RAD is a not for profit organisation that relies on donations and other fundraising efforts to continue getting laptops to students who need them, making education and technology accessible to kiwis. Once donations are collected, RAD teaches high school students in-demand tech engineering skills to refurbish the laptops, and then work with community groups to get them into the hands of ākonga and rangatahi who need them.
RAD was established last year during the first COVID-19 lockdown. The difference between the learning outcomes of students who had a laptop and could participate in online study and those who didn’t was alarming. RAD aims to help bridge the digital divide by giving hardware and skills access to students. By March 2022, RAD aims to provide at least 2000 laptops to those who need them.
If you have a laptop and charger which is less than ten years old, please donate it. Also, please ask your organisation to do the same. If businesses would like to support RAD, but don’t have laptops to donate, please consider contributing to their funding gap of $155k. This funding is needed to cover operations, parts, couriers and training. The overall cost of refurbishing a laptop via RAD is less than buying commercially refurbished or new laptops. Plus, it also diverts e-waste from landfill.
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