An initiative helps students get a computer for studying during the crisis

A citizens’ initiative in Estonia is helping students in need get a computer for remote studying during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The voluntary project, “A computer for every student”, connects families who need a computer for remote learning, and those who have unutilised devices at home or in the office. In less than two weeks, around 500 computers have been traded.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, all schools in Estonia have closed and switched to remote learning. The country is known for its e-solutions, and many educational services have already been accessible online for years, yet there are families who either don’t have any computer or need to share a device between several children or together with a parent who works from home during the lockdown, the coordinators of the project said in a statement.

Over 700 families need a device

“When the Estonian government declared an emergency situation on 13 March, several people posted the idea about this kind of initiative on their social media channels and two Facebook groups were created. After a few days, we all connected and decided to join our forces – we merged the two Facebook groups into one and published a website that would help us connect people and enterprises with unutilised computers to the families in need faster and more efficiently,” Maria Rahamägi, one of the project’s coordinators, said.

By 25 March, more than 3,000 users had joined the Facebook group, and around 710 families had reported their need for a device, which for the small population of just 1.3 million, is a significant amount, the organisers said.

“While individuals can offer their computers directly in the Facebook group, the project team works with companies and organisations that are willing to donate or lend their devices. The team also cooperates with schools and local authorities around the country to make sure devices go to families who need them the most.”

Telecoms offer free internet

“Several Estonian startups and businesses have already joined the movement and donated their unused laptops. Local telecommunications companies Telia and Tele2 offer free internet to families who don’t have active connection at home, and post service Omniva helps deliver the devices around the country.”

“Besides these supporters, around 130 people have donated their personal devices or lent them for the period of remote schooling. In total, around 500 devices have been traded to this day.”

Right now, a total of eight volunteers have joined the initiative: Sven Jablonski, Kätlin Rohilaid-Aljaste, Maria Rahamägi, Daniil Golubev, Anna-Liisa Villmann, Siimon Härm, Kristi Märk and Marii Noor. The team has been working fully online since the start of the project.

For the latest developments in Estonia, follow our special blog on coronavirus.

Cover: “A computer for every student” translates as “igale koolilapsele arvuti” in Estonian (the image courtesy of the initiative’s Facebook group).

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