Disadvantaged students get a helping hand

Monday, 11 May, 2020

Disadvantaged students get a helping hand

Before words like “pandemic”, “COVID-19” and “remote learning” became a part of the everyday lexicon, a program dedicated to supporting disadvantaged secondary students was being rolled out.

Launched in December 2019, the Optus Donate Your Data initiative has seen over 200,000 Optus customers donate more than 5,739,749 GB of data to thousands of students from The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, the KARI foundation, yourtown and Mission Australia.

In response to the recent pandemic, Optus has partnered with the Australian Business and Community Network to assist schools that are typically high needs* and located in low socioeconomic communities, giving even more students access to internet and closing the digital divide.

Many young Australians are being left behind, simply because they don’t have regular access to the internet. The program asks Australians to donate data from their eligible mobile plan, providing internet access to those students that need it most, allowing them to learn, create and connect with the world around them and help power their potential.

During the first wave, Optus and ABCN will work closely with a small number of NSW principals to distribute several hundred SIM cards with the aim of scaling to support 6000 significantly disadvantaged students nationally.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said: “It is essential that young Australians can continue to learn and stay connected with their classmates, which is why we are delighted to be partnering with ABCN to ensure that students in most need are supported by our Donate Your Data initiative and have the connectivity in place to continue with their studies.”

ABCN CEO Allegra Spender said: “If students don’t have internet access, their ability to engage in education is in crisis. A few parents our principals have spoken to were nearly in tears hearing the news that ABCN has partnered with Optus to offer this program. It will certainly ease the stress on families who are hurting.”

Tim Lloyd, Principal of Plumpton High School, one of ABCN’s partner schools, said: “Thirty per cent of our students don’t have reliable access to the internet at home. One of our high-achieving Year 11 refugee students is panicking about missing out — the only device she has is a basic phone and her mother can’t afford much data for her as well as four siblings. Without internet access she is isolated, even though the school has provided her a laptop.”

Optus is looking to expand the program by including additional charities and causes to help bridge the digital divide faced by young Australians living in disadvantage.

*ABCN partner schools typically sit significantly below the national Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) average of 1000 and have high levels of educational disadvantage.

Image credit: © stock.adobe.com/au/zinkevych

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