Local schemes in Stratford, Alcester and Shipston aim to provide laptops to families facing digital poverty during lockdown
A DIGITAL divide has arisen among schoolchildren between those who can access online learning during lockdown and those who can’t.
Ofcom claims that up to 1.8m children in the UK do not have access to a laptop, desktop PC or tablet, and has warned that already disadvantaged poorer children face missing out on vital education.
Across the Stratford district, heroic efforts are under way by people desperate to offer the lifeline of a laptop to families who need them.
Schemes in Stratford, Shipston and Alcester have gone into overdrive since the government said that schools could not reopen after the Christmas break and that learning must take place online where possible during the lockdown.
As the Herald has previously reported, Laptops4learners was started by husband and wife Marie and Nick Rendell and IT expert David Hawkings after they heard about the plight of a Syrian refugee family in Stratford whose children were getting behind at school due to lack of access to technology.
Since Laptop4learners was founded just over a month ago, it has given out 120 donated and reconditioned laptops to families in need.
Marie said: “Demand has increased dramatically since the schools didn’t reopen after Christmas. A father of five explained to us the difficulties of his children engaging with school lessons at three different schools, across five different school years, with one computer.”
The demand for laptops is almost limitless, added Marie, who asked that Stratfordians continue to donate their old laptops. She said: “We had a great response from the story the Herald ran before Christmas but we now need more old laptops to satisfy demand. We’ve had some very moving feedback from families who say the provision of a laptop has made a huge difference to their child’s learning.”
In Alcester, Tom Print should be taking it easy as his wife Paige is due to give birth next month. Instead, he is spending long hours fixing up old laptops to give to those who need them.
He runs computer shop Printech in the town and decided to act after receiving requests for laptops for children, including from Our Lady’s Primary, where his four-year-old son Theo is a pupil.
After putting a message out on Facebook saying what he was doing, Tom received 60 requests within 24 hours.
“We want to give something back and do everything we can,” he said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Shipston resident Richard Hale. Instead of revamping old laptops, though, he is on a mission to raise as much money to buy 20 new Chromebook laptops for disadvantaged children who attend the local primary school.
He kicked off his “Leave no student behind” campaign by inviting friends and family to contribute to the first laptop instead of buying presents for him when he celebrates his birthday this month.
The response to the fundraiser has been rapid and impressive. Richard said: “We doubled my initial target of £1,000 within 48 hours thanks to a local company, Classic Driving Development, who have pledged £1,000. I’ve been amazed at the generosity of the community too.”
A lecturer in digital forensics at Birmingham City University, Richard added: “I have been fortunate in my life to have had support which has been fundamental in my journey so far and wanted to show these less fortunate pupils that, no matter what, there is always hope and there are people out there who will offer support. I’m a big believer in ‘paying it forward’ and wanted to kick off 2021 with some positivity.”
To donate old laptops visit Printech Alcester via its Facebook page who have now joined forces with Laptop4learners to provide laptops to families in the local area