Hot on the heels of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end childhood hunger is England rugby player Maro Itoje. He’s doing his bit to tackle the ‘digital divide’ between young people in lockdown.
The 26-year old rugby star, nicknamed ‘Super Maro’, is making a name for himself off the pitch. He’s super by name and super by nature, speaking out for school kids whose parents can’t afford computer equipment.
With schools shut, many children have had to learn from home. But a shortage of school laptops means not every child has the right IT, leaving them unable to join online lessons.
In April 2020, the government promised to give out laptops to 1.3 million teenagers. So far it has handed out around only 700,000.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Maro said: “Education is often seen as a leveller, as a tool to aid social mobility, improve life chances, improve opportunities for the youth and for the future. But what we’re seeing through this situation is the child attainment gap is widening as a result of the lockdown.” The digital divide, he says, is getting wider.
Maro’s own experience at school was very different. He was born in London after his parents moved to the UK from Nigeria. After attending a state school, Maro won a sports scholarship to the private boys school, Harrow. There, he had his own computer in his room and was encouraged to study hard.
Maro wants to see computers and free broadband put into the homes of around 1.78 million children from low-income homes. As well as holding the government to account, he is calling on tech companies and broadband providers to pull their weight too. And he’s asking for a post-pandemic review that could see every child in England receive a free laptop as part of a standard state-school kit.
So far Maro’s campaign has received support from a network of 2,000 teachers and several MPs. Using his huge Instagram and Twitter following has helped get his message out to the masses:
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Maro said he had been inspired by Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign: “What Marcus has done has been amazing. For me it is about getting the kids what they need, and any way I can help do that I will.”
Maro is another sports star we’ll be keeping our eyes on. (Oh, and he’s also tipped to be the next England captain).
If your child is struggling to get hold of a laptop or access to WiFi, their school may be able to help. Ask if they are involved in projects like the Lockdown Learning package from BT, (see qimag.uk/btwifi).
(Photo © Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)