Shaping Portsmouth helps bridge the digital divide for city’s children beyond the Covid pandemic
CHILDREN may have returned to school but there is still a ‘massive’ digital divide across the city which Shaping Portsmouth are hoping to bridge.
While the Covid lockdowns highlighted the disparity in technology available to support learning at home it’s barrier which still exists despite the reopening of classrooms on March 8.
Shaping Portsmouth’s Digital Enablement programme lead Hasmukh Patel said: ‘The pandemic has highlighted the digital divide of children trying to learn on shared computers, no digital devices or phones with cracked screens. However it’s important to realise this situation goes beyond the pandemic – just because schools have reopened doesn’t mean children don’t need them.
‘There will still be children who need to isolate at home and blended learning is here to stay with the need for all children to have access to digital devices for homework which often requires being able to carry out research online.’
The non profit company is co-ordinating the donation and distribution of digital devices as well as a Crowdfunding page to raise £5,000 to purchase additional devices. Digital devices are currently refurbished by disadvantaged young people at Landport Community Centre before being delivered to those in need.
Hasmukh added: ‘We have so far received 32 devices but some of these are old an unsuitable. At present the demand is outstripping supply which is why it is vital we can also raise this funding to purchase refurbished laptops.’
One of the first schools to benefit from the initiative was Manor Infant School who received five laptops. Devices have also now been sent to Mayfield School and Portsmouth City of Sanctuary who help to provide support for refugees.
Manor Infant School headteacher Helen Castle said: ‘I’m delighted that we are the first setting to receive equipment through the scheme. I’m really looking forward to giving them to families who have been unable to access all we’ve had to offer during the lockdowns and know they will now have the access they need to support additional learning at home, even after the pandemic.’
The scheme also has the full backing of Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for education Suzy Horton who stressed the need to bridge the long-term digital divide.
Cllr Horton said: ‘Portsmouth schools have worked incredibly hard throughout the lockdown to provide a remote offer to their pupils, but for some families the lack of suitable devices has meant they have struggled. This scheme aims to bridge the digital divide in the city as a long-term strategy – not just during the pandemic – so all pupils have the same ability to access digital learning.’
As well as supporting the city’s children the initiative also hopes to provide digital devices for vulnerable adults who have struggled with isolation during lockdown.
Anyone who would like to donate laptops, desktop computers or tablets can do so by emailing [email protected] where arrangements will be made for collection.
Shaping Portsmouth chief executive Stef Nienaltowski said: ‘We are delighted with the positive response to the scheme and we are thrilled that we have now started delivering devices to the families who need them. Please keep donating so we can make sure everyone in Portsmouth who needs a device can get one as quickly as possible.’
Stef hopes to reach the Crowdfunding target by the end of March.