An innovative partnership between the private sector and Crown agencies is providing free access to digital education from the comfort of their homes for hundreds of students at Haeata Community Campus.
After months of planning, setting up and testing the equipment, Haeata principal Andy Kai Fong today announced that over 360 students in 190 homes across Aranui in Christchurch’s east will now have free wifi access for their school learning.
According to the last census, over 40% of the Aranui community did not have access to the internet.
The project is coordinated by the Greater Christchurch School Network Trust on behalf of Haeata and supported by Chorus, Cyclone, Crown agency Network for Learning (N4L) and the Ministry of Education.
“Our mission is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to meet their potential and in today's connected world that means that learning takes place 24/7, not just at school,“ said Steve Wakefield, the chairman of Greater Christchurch Schools’ Network Trust.
“Children need to have internet connectivity in their homes to maximise their learning, and ensure that they are not left behind, and this project sets out to prove that this goal is feasible and cost-effective to achieve."
Principal Kai Fong said that internet and devices are a luxury that many of his whānau cannot afford. “This creates a huge disadvantage for these families and this initiative aims to bridge that digital divide.”
All Haeata students between Breezes Road, Pages Road, Wainoni Road and Anzac Drive will be able to access the school network through 66 wireless points installed by Chorus staff across that area.
“We are incredibly grateful to Chorus for providing the infrastructure and N4L for setting up the Managed Network and filtering software that will provide the same safe digital learning experience our students get at school,” said the principal.
Mr Kai Fong explained that the project is specifically designed to give the students access to the school network but is not meant to provide free internet to the families.
“The students will have the same restrictions on their device as they have at school so they won’t be able to use it to stream Netflix or play Fortnite.”
The Greater Christchurch Schools Network is working closely with the community to promote the new network and provide information about financing solutions to help families purchase a device for their learner.
“Digital technology is rapidly changing our society, so we want our education system and our students to be increasingly digitally-enabled to prepare them for the future ahead of them,” said Mr Kai Fong.
“This initiative will be invaluable for a large group of students who may otherwise not have been able to fully explore and exploit the opportunities Haeata has to offer.”