Give gadgets in charity to bridge e-divide: Catholic schools | Mumbai News

MUMBAI: In times of Covid-19, as classrooms remain shut, a lack of access to a smartphone or a laptop is the newest divide in education. Now, over 500 Catholic, mostly budget, schools in Maharashtra and Gujarat are working to bridge this digital gap. The Western Region Catholic Foundation for Education (WRCFE) is not only preparing staff for online teaching, but also creating a ‘resource bank’ in their schools to provide gadgets to students who can’t afford one.
The schools, most of which are budget or government-aided, were not prepared for the digital switch when the Covid-19 lockdown began in the fourth week of March. These are now working towards building a system which helps them start the academic year on time. “These are unprecedented times and we realised that we would have to be proactive. Many of our schools are budget schools, and required an economical solution. Many parents don’t have a spare device to allow students to be part of online classes. So we are creating a resource bank where a school can ask people to donate a spare mobile or laptop, which can be given to someone who needs it. Similarly, we are trying to rope in CSR funds to help meet the requirement,” said Archbishop Elias Gonsalves, chairperson, WRCFE.
With 501 schools having registered for the digitization process, the schools are currently sending out surveys to their teachers and parents to understand the levels of preparedness. “Most of our schools continue to be affiliated to the state boards and charge very nominal fees to cater to the poor. Therefore, in most of our schools, learning was restricted to the traditional methods, but it is time to adapt. Apart from digital learning, we are also setting up a model for home learning where we reach through the internet. These could include assignments and learning that can happen at home,” said Father Francis Swamy, joint secretary of the Archdiocese Board of Education and manager, St Xavier’s High School, Fort.
Schools are readying digital classrooms using Google Suite. “We are helping schools to e-construct Google classrooms, conduct online training, innovate solutions on access to devices, learn cyber protection strategies and form a central repository of resources to ensure that learning never stops in schools, rural or urban ” said Francis Joseph from the School Leaders Network.

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