As Romania began closing school buildings in mid-March and moved education online to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus, a new problem unfolded in Transylvania and the country as a whole: many students lack computers or high-speed internet at home. This means that schools can’t provide the same online education to every student.
In Hargita/Harghita and Maros/Mures counties, there are close to 13,000 students who lack devices to use for online education, Hungarian news portal Székelyhon reports based on data provided by the counties’ school inspectorates. During the past few weeks, parents have been asked by schools to fill out an online survey in which they had to detail whether their children had or lack devices connected to the internet.
In Harghita County, 3,404 students lack devices connected to the internet; in other words, they don’t have any smartphones, tablets, or computers they can use to access online classes. In Maros County, 10,000 students (9,286) are in a similar situation, accounting for 11.6 percent of the total students in the county.
To address the issue, the Romanian government plans to spend RON 150 million on tablets and laptops for the children in need. There is a problem though: These children lack access to education while classes remain online. What we know so far is that schools will remain closed until September 2020 and that the government’s initiative to give devices to the children in need is moving ahead slowly.
Looking at the bigger picture, a recent IRES survey has found that in Romania there are close to 1 million children who don’t have access to online education. The Education Ministry, however, has knowledge of only 250,000 students. So the question remains: How will children without devices or an internet connection finally get access to online education when the new school year starts this September?