Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, Mr Weyts said that the first 4,000 laptops will be available by the end of this week. He added that “The closure of schools always effects the most vulnerable pupils. We should do all we can to help them”.
From the 16 November distance teaching will become mandatory from the second and third grades (years 3 to 6) of secondary education. Schools will only be allowed to teach a maximum of 50% of lessons to these pupils in the classroom. The remaining lessons must be taught online. In order to ensure that children from less well-off families don’t fall behind, the Flemish Government is purchasing 15,000 laptops that will be distributed among the most economically disadvantaged pupils.
These come on top of the 12,000 second-hand laptops that were distributed to disadvantaged pupils during the first lockdown in the spring. Then there were delays in collecting and distributing the computers. However, Mr Weyts says that things will be different this time around and that 4,000 laptops will already be available by the end of the week.
In addition to the laptops for secondary school children, Mr Weyts also intends to provide 1,000 laptops for students in higher eduction that are also to be taught by online distance learning methods. “There too not everyone has acces to distance learning”, Mr Weyts said.
With the 12,000 laptops that were distributed earlier this year and the 15,000 that are are to be purchased now, there will be a total of 27,000 laptops available for disadvantaged pupils and students. This is far more than the 18,000 laptops that the education boards estimate are required.
In addition to a laptop a good internet connection is also required by those that are to be taught by online distance learning. The internet providers Proximus and Telenet will provide free internet to those pupils that don’t have an internet connection in their homes until at least the end of the year.
To this end Telenet provides login codes that allow pupils to connect to its public WIFI hotspots. Last month the company announced a new low-cost basic internet subscription for families that currently don’t have internet in their homes.