Solihull business BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK is donating 100 laptops to schools across Birmingham to help support students of all ages with home learning.
The ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns, have forced schools across the nation to switch to remote learning, bringing digital poverty into sharp focus.
A survey carried out by the Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) in March 2020 revealed that an estimated 5,000 students across Birmingham are living without devices or connectivity to the internet; and the charity believes this number has increased dramatically over the last year.
To help combat the escalating digital divide across the region, BEP has joined forces with other like-minded organisations to form the Digital Education Partnership (DEP).
This newly launched project is working with schools and Early Help Hubs across Birmingham to help children most in need of digital access, by giving laptops to families as well as helping them get online.
So far, the DEP has distributed 350 laptops to local schools and helped hundreds of children get online by providing them with WIFI access. Over the coming weeks, the charity is set to send out 400 more devices – which includes the 100 laptops donated by Solihull-based BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK.
In a bid to encourage more people to donate, BEP has also teamed up with the BBC on their campaign tackling digital poverty. The Make a Difference project was launched last summer when schools across the country closed their doors for the first time, and connects individuals with charities accepting laptop donations in their local area.
Jayne Licari, head of brand and external communications at BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK, said: “Bridging the gap between education and youth unemployment by helping young people to acquire valuable life skills is at the heart of what we stand for as a business.
“Without access to the technology they need to support home learning, the risk of disadvantaged students slipping through the cracks is higher than ever before.
“That’s why we’re encouraging other businesses and individuals to join us in donating their unwanted devices, to help students stay connected during this challenging time.”
John Garrett, director of operations at Birmingham Education Partnership, said: “While we can’t solve Birmingham’s digital poverty gap overnight, every device donated will make a huge difference to a child looking to reconnect with their peers, school and education.
“The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digitalisation faster than any of us could’ve ever anticipated, and this will undoubtedly lead to a more permanent shift in learning styles – even after this crisis has ended.
“We’re so grateful to BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK and everyone who’s supported us so far, and we look forward to continuing to work together to tackle digital poverty across the region.”
DEP has set a goal of distributing 1,000 devices to schools across Birmingham before the end of the academic year.
For more information on how you can get involved and help end digital poverty for young people across the region, click here.