The Saskatchewan NDP says the Ministry of Education has a role of providing supports to address the “digital divide” felt by schools and families across Saskatchewan.
Education critic Carla Beck said on Tuesday morning that some in the province are finding difficulty in participating in online learning activities with no access to Wi-Fi, laptops, tablets or other devices.
She wants to see the government work with school divisions and teachers to ensure there is a technology equity plan and resources available for students while schools remain closed due to COVID-19.
Beck said some families are able to find solutions at home, but others are struggling.
“Maybe because of cut backs over the last few years, they maybe don’t have the digital capacity or don’t physically have the devices that can be lent out,” explained Beck.
“I’ve heard concerns from other divisions that they are worried what will happen if they are audited if they give out devices and those devices don’t come back in September.”
She suggested the government could make assurances around those audits or could find ways around collecting donated devices for families in need.
Shannon Chappell, a single mom of three school-aged children in Saskatoon, only has one cell phone at home between the four of them.
Chappell said they’ve had to find other sources so her kids can continue learning.
“It hasn’t been very successful. We’ve actually ventured out to the Dollar Store or Wal-Mart to pick up some grade-level, do-it-yourself booklets to keep caught up,” shared Chappell.
Another suggestion Beck gave is using SaskTel to ensure students that don’t have a digital plan at home have access to one free of cost to support learning and mental health during the pandemic.