The COVID-19 pandemic brought the education sector to a screeching halt. Across the globe, educational institutions were struggling to ensure that students could continue learning without jeopardizing their health and safety.
Nationwide lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing regulations left schools and colleges with no choice but to embrace online learning. Educational agencies and government authorities quickly pointed out various benefits of distance learning, including better retention and productivity.
As with most countries, schools in Israel adopted e-learning tools. But the hasty transition left nearly a million children living in Israel’s periphery with no access to education.
Online Education in Israel: The Real Picture
The Israeli government has been advertising various online learning initiatives that are meant to benefit students during the pandemic. It seems only natural considering that the country’s socioeconomic center has emerged as a global hub of business and technology.
Most people forget that there’s a large student population that belongs to impoverished households in the socio-geographic periphery of Israel.
Nearly a third of these students don’t have access to a stable internet connection. In comparison, only 3.6% of children living in the country’s center lack internet access. Moreover, nearly 36% of children in the rural periphery don’t even own a cell phone.
These statistics paint a dismal picture of the state of Israel’s education system. In light of the pandemic, the shift to online learning was inevitable. But the government should have considered the needs and limitations of students living in the periphery.
A Ray of Hope
It’s important to understand that students shape the future of a country and its social fabric. Failing to provide them with proper educational resources will result in a generation of disillusioned and aimless youngsters.
That’s why Moshe Edry, Eyal Edry, and Rafael Edry – founders of the Achinoam Association for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities – stepped up to help young students living in Israel’s periphery.
Eyal Edry truly understands the hardships faced by children who live in poverty. He knows the value that proper education and guidance bring in a student’s life.
That’s what prompted him to launch a fundraising campaign to provide students continue learning despite the pandemic.
Soon after its inception, the initiative succeeded in providing 30,000 computers to students in the rural periphery. Over the next few months, more than 400,000 students were provided with computers, so that they could attend classes and interact with their peers.
Impact on Students
Lack of access to proper online learning infrastructure will have a plethora of detrimental effects on students. They’ll start accumulating gaps in their knowledge. Even when in-person classes resume, they’ll struggle to keep pace with the lessons. This, in turn, can cause them to lose interest in their education altogether.
Also, attending classes plays a key role in helping students develop strong interpersonal and social skills. But they miss out on that opportunity when they can’t attend online classes. Not interacting with their friends for months could take a toll on their mental wellbeing and personality development.
The biggest impact of the initiative by Eyal and Rafael Edry is that it has helped students maintain a semblance of normalcy despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.
The computers – donated as part of the pandemic – have helped young students stay connected with their classmates via video conferencing tools. Also, they can continue learning at home until regular classes resume.
That’s going to be instrumental in minimizing the number of students who drop out of school due to a lack of resources. This, in turn, will prevent the youth from turning into a generation that doesn’t believe in the value of education.
The Way Forward
Under the supervision of Moshe, Rafael and Eyal Edry, the Achinoam Association implemented various programs, including mentoring and scholarships, to support at-risk youth in Israel’s periphery. But to prevent the degeneration of social resilience in the country, the government needs to step up.
The distribution of computers by the Achinoam Association did catch the public’s as well as the government’s eyes. Subsequently, it resulted in an increase in their awareness of the problem and attracted their attention towards the education of underprivileged children.
There were at length discussions between the Ministry of Education and the Achinoam Association regarding the issue. After an even lengthier process, the government finally established the plan to finance more than 150,000 computers for the cause. These communications with the Association were also mentioned in the report filed by the State Comptroller of Israel.
While the government has sanctioned adequate budgets, they lack the framework to implement the right policies. Eyal Edry believes that handing over the reins to non-profit organizations is an effective solution.
These agencies have the willingness and expertise to ensure the well-being of young minds. What they need is capital to improve their infrastructure and reach more students. A close collaboration between non-profit organizations and the government will help nurture the young generation.