Independent Senator Eileen Flynn is calling on the Government to bridge the digital divide to ensure all children have equal access to education.
Addressing the Seanad this week, Senator Flynn said said she knows of many children who must go to their local school once a week to collect homework from the teacher. She heard last week from a young mother of six children who shared a phone.
“Every single child has a right to education, but right now – and the pandemic has taught us – not every child has that equal right to be successful within the education system,” Senator Flynn said.
Senator Flynn said the pandemic and the related focus on remote learning has highlighted this inequality in education. She referred to a 2020 ESRI report that showed that students from disadvantaged areas and students with additional needs have suffered the most.
Senator Flynn said: “Every single one of us in this House have a responsibility to make sure that children in Ireland have equal access to education.
“Now I brought this before this House six months ago, speaking about children who are living in very disadvantaged areas, that don’t have equal access, that don’t have money to buy laptops, that don’t even have the space to study. It’s a topic that’s way back on the government’s agenda and I think it should be brought up to the very top of the agenda right now.”
Senator Flynn has also raised the issue at the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
Senator Flynn said: “The inequality within the digital divide is very, very evident.” She said students in Donegal and other rural counties still don’t have equal access to broadband. While she welcomed the initiative by Three to provide 10,000 sim cards with unlimited data, she said it’s not their responsibility.
She said: “This is something that the Government, and especially the Department of Education, needs to take on because we can’t say all children have a right to education when all children don’t have access to that right of education.”
Senator Flynn said she will continue to raise the issue until it is addressed.
She concluded: “It’s the children, unfortunately, who are the ones who are losing out.”