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NSW Aboriginal students in Covid crisis

Seal Media Group, Australia

In one western NSW town, laptops for students struggling to learn from home are sitting in storage while they wait for the town’s shoddy internet to be fixed. In response to the pandemic, the NSW Education Department provided 80 devices and 121 internet dongles to schools across the Central Darling, including to Wilcannia Central School.But many have not even been handed out, with teachers seeing no point while the internet coverage remains so poor. Instead, students receive school packs at their home with their work inside.Daily Telegraph – News Feed latest episode“The internet is terrible across the entire region,” Aboriginal Education Consultative Group president Anne Dennis said.“If more of our kids could use laptops at home, it would be another thing we could do to try and engage them.“There’s a real lack of resources. The internet’s poor. Kids are hungry. They’re not understanding the work. There’s overcrowding.” Ms Dennis said just 40 Aboriginal students out of 120 at the Walgett Community College returned to school when it reopened in April last year, after it was closed for a term due to Covid. And she said with a 75 per cent attendance rate for the school pre-Covid, the community is now facing a “heartbreaking crisis”. Ms Dennis believes other western NSW schools are facing the same issues.“There’s a significant number of kids who didn’t return. It’s heartbreaking and a crisis in our region. It’s a constant battle to get those kids to school,” Ms Dennis said.Walgett mother of 10 Edna Gibbs — who has six kids trying to complete schooling at home — said home-schooling was a “big challenge”. “You’re trying to be a single parent on one hand, and on the other you’re trying to be a teacher,” Ms Gibbs said. The children work on the veranda, with no laptops or desks. But, despite the challenges, Ms Gibbs said the kids were doing the best they could and were winning retail vouchers awarded for handing in assignments. Wilcannia mum Natika Clayton said it would help her cousin, Robert, 13, — who lives with her family — if students had access to online one-on-one learning. Ms Clayton, who was on maternity leave from her full-time government employment, said: “I tell him, do what you can do and I’ll help you with the rest, but that’s usually after dinner time when I can sit down and help him.”A statement from the NSW Education Department said: “As is the case right across NSW, learning from home in Wilcannia takes many forms and is not exclusively online.”Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said: “We know it’s much better to have students in the classroom, which is why we have worked with NSW Health to bring students back to school as soon as possible.“In some areas of regional NSW there is a lack of mobile reception, which is obviously a bigger issue than a school is able to resolve. Principals and teachers are aware when this is the case and provide school work accordingly.”Telstra NSW regional general manager Mike Marom said the company was working to improve mobile coverage to Wilcannia.NAT – Stay Informed – Social Media

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