Trust gets computers into schools
A community group believes it is unfair that some children miss out on quality access to computers in classrooms, so it is installing the hardware itself for next to nothing.
Computers for Schools operations manager Graham Mccready was at Titahi Bay North School last week setting up a bank of 16 commercial spec computers – the school’s first computer lab – at a cost of $600 to the school.
Mr Mccready says that while children in better-off areas sometimes have a computer each, or at least a class of computers they can regularly use, pupils at lower-decile schools, who may not have computers at home, are not getting good exposure to computers at school either.
‘‘When they get to high school, they are required to type at 30 words per minute to cope with the work there, but most classes [in low-decile schools] only have one or two computers a classroom.’’ So far the trust has installed 900 free computers in schools, mainly in the poorer suburbs of Wellington and Auckland. Computers for Schools is funded by donations, mostly from small businesses.
The computers are bought at low cost from a company paid to appropriately dispose of government department machines.
The machines have about a fiveyear lifespan, and have usually been used for about two or three years, but are of a higher grade than most computers bought for personal use, Mr Mccready says.
The trust learned early on that if it provided computers to disadvantaged homes, they were often sold to Cash Converters, so it concentrates on schools instead, he says.
‘‘I met one boy at a school for gifted kids that had the soles falling off his feet, so I put a computer and desk and new printer in his home, and when I came back to check, it was gone and he had a new bike.’’
Another lesson learned was that providing the computers alone could burden a school with technicians’ fees to have them installed. Now, the trust installs them, and ‘‘if they need 10, we give them 15, and tell them to put them aside if they’re not working’’.
The trust is endeavouring to saturate the needs of low-decile Porirua schools.
Titahi Bay North School is decile two. Principal Steve Caldwell says the trust’s work has been a huge bonus, as there is no specific funding from the Ministry of Education for computers. ‘‘I think it’s awesome. The benefit is we can now spend our money on software to use with the computers, and staff training to use them more effectively.
‘‘ Computers are vital. They are what runs society now. You have to be able to have access to them and be able to effectively use them.’’
So far the trust has installed 55 computers at Titahi Bay Intermediate, 10 at Mana College, 20 at St Pius X, and 28 at Titahi Bay North. Nine installed at Natone Park School had to be replaced after they were stolen two weeks ago.
Natone Park principal Kiri Smith says having the library computers stolen, in what appeared to be a ‘‘to order’’ break-in, was devastating, halting the children’s research and book issues.
The trust’s work is right on the money, she says. ‘‘It’s excellent. They are making sure that kids like ours, that otherwise wouldn’t have access to the technology, can . . . and this is probably the only place that they can do that. It’s vital.’’
IT man: Graham Mccready, operations manager of the Computers for Schools trust, believes computers make a huge difference to children’s learning.