Even more than before, it is obvious computers and the internet are an integral part of our day-to-day lives. In these times of homeschooling, children often miss out because there is no laptop or pc available at their home. Situations with two parents working from home and two children following online lessons, are not an exception. This already requires rigid planning when there are three laptops for example, but in many vulnerable households there is only one or no computer at all.
To prevent young people from falling behind, DigitalForYouth.be set itself a goal towards the end of March to collect 10,000 laptops from companies, refurbishing them and distributing them through the schools to young people affected by the corona crisis.
There are four of us at home and we have one computer we share. Because it is not always available I do my lessons on my mobile. I am going to school to become an electrician later. This laptop allows me to make and save electrical diagrams on the computer.
The project was launched with the support of the Flemish Education Department, the Flemish Community commission in Brussels and the German-speaking community. Plans are being made to extend the support to the French-speaking Community. With this support and with donations of companies DigitalForYouth.be far exceeded its goal of 10,000 laptops.
‘We collected almost 15,000 laptops thanks to the generous support of companies. More than 12,000 were refurbished into good working laptops. But the demand continues to grow and is still greater than the supply, which is why we will continue our campaign’, says Arnaud Recko, board member of DigitalFourYouth.be.
‘In 2019, DNS Belgium founded the non-profit organisation together with Close The Gap vzw. DNS Belgium did this from its vision on corporate social responsibility and its vision on the future’, says Philip Du Bois, General Manager of DNS Belgium and chairman of DigitalForYouth.be. ‘Without DNS Belgium's structural support it would never have been possible to collect so many laptops and refurbish most of them.'
Giving all students a fair chance
'At the start of March, it became obvious very soon from our contacts with schools that several children were unable to do any school work because they didn't have a computer at home. And if you know that Flanders alone has more than 1,000 secondary schools, you can understand.'
Now that I've been given the computer, I no longer have to take into account when my brothers and sisters have lessons and I can just follow the lessons whenever. My computer means a lot to me because now I can complete my last year successfully.
In consultation with the authorities and the education umbrella organisations, it was decided to first help Special Secondary Education students and then the schools that score high on the Education Poverty Indicator. Particularly in Brussels, where one in three children grows up in poverty, there is an acute shortage of laptops.
‘We are a school with many technical secondary education and secondary vocational education students and quite a few of them are struggling. When the corona measures came into force, we realised approximately half of our students did not have the right tools at home to follow online lessons. Thanks to the project, we now have computers at our disposal that we can distribute to allow students to follow lessons online', says Valerie Van Damme, headmistress of the Instituut Anneessens Funck in Brussels.
I had a computer but unfortunately it broke. I was working on my mobile, but for subjects such as Dactylo (touch typing) it was difficult. Now I have a computer and I can at last do my school work properly.
‘We make a selection of the best laptops and we refurbish them until they are as good as new. This means that all business data on these computers is professionally removed. We clean the laptop thoroughly and we install new licensed software on it. The laptops are packaged professionally and sent to the schools who requested them’, says Philip Du Bois.
The initiative also goes beyond this corona crisis. ‘This project is about the further digitisation of education. Students who receive a laptop in the coming days or weeks, will reap the benefits for years’, Philip Du Bois recently said in DataNews. ‘Not only do they get a laptop, they also develop the necessary skills that are indispensable in the digital world they are growing up in.’