Keeping children’s education alive during the pandemic
Supporting forgotten families in Hong Kong
Since April 2020, The Order of Malta Hong Kong has embarked on a tech rescue mission for some of the most vulnerable families with young children dealing with the pandemic in cramped living spaces, shared facilities and little or no computer access.
A collaborative effort between the Order of Malta Hong Kong Members and volunteers has helped 40 beneficiary families support their children’s online education needs through multiple schools closures. This initiative has provided relief and hope to those in already difficult circumstances at a time of immense uncertainty.
With 40 new laptops presented to beneficiaries on 30 August, 2020, the children aged between 5-11 years old, gained the possibility to continue their education by staying up-to-date with classroom activities.
The hardware solution offered a possibility to keep learning alive, while the launch of a Computer Club served the children on a new level. Over 25 bilingual online classes in English and Cantonese have been held that introduce skills based lessons on how to navigate the new laptops, participate in workshops and join regular meet-ups to learn new things. The Computer Club programme has been managed by volunteers from its start in September 2020 and runs until July 2021.
Team Leader Marina Fairfax described how the seeds for the Computer Club were sown.
Can you tell us how the project started?
Pre-pandemic, the Flying Young programme was set up to provide low-income families with new experiences and opportunities to see Hong Kong outside of their living space and daily routine. The pandemic changed their needs dramatically. We found that a large majority of our families did not have computer access, meaning that their children could not participate in online school and learning. The project mission shifted to provide a respectful and dignified solution to each family in need.
What real help was The Order of Malta Hong Kong able to provide?
Through a collaborative process, the Order of Malta Hong Kong sourced 40 brand new Chromebook laptops in Order of Malta branded protective covers that delighted the kids. We set up a bi-weekly Computer Club, managed by our volunteers who provide online lessons. We taught the children how to use their new laptops, with individual classes taught both in English and Cantonese by our passionate volunteers, focusing on key learning programs like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides followed by life skills classes and general knowledge. It has been a gift for each and every one, both children and volunteers.
What were some of the challenges?
As with any new program, plus adapting to learning online there were initial teething problems to find the best way to conduct the classes. However as the year has moved on, we have a class formula that works well. We have also introduced more class participation in each class that has engaged the children more.
What is the future of the Computer Club and your work for the Order in Hong Kong?
While it’s been amazing to support and serve the families and children in the way that we have, everyone looks forward to meeting in person. I think this will support the evolution of the Computer Club as we develop classes collaborating with tutors and industry professionals to make sure that we are giving the best education to our children. We plan in expanding our classes to new age groups and as we look beyond the pandemic to support children’s mental well-being in the future.
I am so grateful to be part of the Order and this community who have supported our efforts in this journey that has just begun.
Chromebook with cases and assessors
One of the zoom class teaching some computer skills