The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt. The last two years have been testing for everyone, including healthcare workers, business owners, and stay-at-home parents.
Similarly, students saw their worlds turn upside down due to school closures and the eventual adoption of online learning.
Of course, it was the only way to protect students, teachers, and administrators from the novel coronavirus. But the abrupt transition to an e-learning model has been excruciating for students and educators alike.
The Downside Of Online Learning
While teachers struggled to navigate their way around e-learning platforms, students found themselves disengaged and isolated from virtual classrooms. But the biggest roadblock to the adoption of online learning has been the jarring digital divide between different classes of society.
For instance, roughly 32% of children in the Israeli periphery don't have internet access at home. That's a stark contrast to only 3.6% of children in the country's socioeconomic center who lack internet access. Also, nearly a third of children in the Israeli periphery don't have access to smartphones.
When the Israeli government issued orders for school closures due to the pandemic, students in the country's center enjoyed a frictionless transition to virtual classrooms. But nearly 400,000 students in underprivileged households didn't even have personal computers.
Both educational institutions and government authorities ignored the plight of these children.
That's when Refael (aka Rafi) Edry and his younger brothers, Moshe Edree and Eyal Edry decided to help these students.
Fundraising For A Cause
Raised in the small town of Safed, Rafi Edry, Moshe Edree, and Eyal Edry have first-hand experience coping with financial struggles in childhood. They know how it feels to curb your aspirations because of limited opportunities and resources.
They're determined not to let social disparities come in the way of a better future for children in the Israeli periphery. It's led them to build the Ahinoam Association for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities.
So, when Eyal Edry realized that thousands of students didn't have the means to attend online classes, he joined hands with Moshe Edree and Refael Edry to start a fundraising campaign through their organization.
The campaign invited donations from ordinary citizens and businesses in Israel. The idea was to distribute computers to students from low-income families and help them attend online classes. The Ahinoam Association provided personal computers to more than 30,000 students in Israel.
Impact Of The Campaign
The immediate impact of the Ahinoam Association's initiative was that it helped thousands of students continue their schooling. These students would've accumulated gaps in their education without support from the organization. That, in turn, would've made it difficult for them to return to school when normal classes resumed.
Also, the campaign helped young students maintain a sense of familiarity amidst the catastrophes of the pandemic. They found a way to occupy their minds and stay connected with their friends. It contributed to their emotional and psychological development as well.
Focusing On The Greater Good
Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry believe that the impact of their fundraising campaign extends beyond the short-term results. The campaign is particularly important considering that young students determine the future of a country and its society.
If Israeli students are forced to quit schooling for no fault of their own, it'll turn them into a generation of aimless, disillusioned youth. They'll grow up believing that their government abandoned them during the formative years of their lives. Ultimately, they'll threaten the integrity and resilience that hold Israel's social fabric together.
The Ahinoam Association's efforts have restored their faith in the people of their country. They've found a sense of belonging in society. That, in turn, will motivate them to build a better life and give back to their communities.
The campaign has also shown the world that bridging the digital divide between different social classes isn't rocket science.
All it takes is a bit of foresight and the willingness to act. It'll inspire business leaders, philanthropists, and government authorities across the globe to do their part in mending the gap. Ultimately, all these efforts will accelerate the adoption of online learning.
The Road Ahead
As the world returns to pre-pandemic normalcy, students will go back to school. But computers, smartphones, and the internet will continue to be integral to their education. They'll need access to these resources while working on homework assignments and class projects.
The onus is on educators and policymakers to learn from the Ahinoam Association's initiative and bridge the digital disparity among students.