The novel coronavirus caused massive disruption to the education sector. Across the globe, numerous educational institutions had to suspend regular classes due to quarantine and social distancing regulations.
The good news is that we’re living in the age of groundbreaking tech innovations. High-speed internet, video conferencing apps, and e-learning tools made it possible for students to join virtual classes from the comfort of their homes.
While the global education sector had been warming up to the concept of online learning, the pandemic accelerated its adoption.
Proponents of e-learning quickly pointed out its key benefits, including improved retention and productivity. Also, it helped students learn at a comfortable pace, instead of rushing through each lesson.
The Flip Side of E-Learning
Despite the glorious benefits of online education, students and teachers struggled with the abrupt transition. On the one hand, most educators lacked the technical expertise to configure and utilize online learning tools. Also, they had to overhaul their curricula and teaching practices to fit into the virtual classroom framework.
On the other hand, thousands of students were left with no access to online classes. In Israel, for instance, nearly 400,000 students didn’t own personal computers. Living in the Israeli periphery, a majority of them didn’t even have access to cell phones or broadband internet at home.
It’s alarming that one of the world’s biggest tech superpowers failed to fend for its youth during the crisis. While the Israeli government was busy advertising various online learning initiatives, these students suffered the consequences of bureaucratic neglect and apathy.
The unfortunate part is that the situation isn’t very different in other parts of the world too.
In the US, nearly 6% of the population doesn’t have access to reliable broadband services. Worse still, nearly a quarter of the rural population lacked access to internet connectivity. That’s a whopping 14.5 million people.
It’s easy to understand how the growing digital disparity could be the biggest threat to the adoption of e-learning. In the absence of proper resources to join online classes, millions of students would be left with no choice but to drop out of schools and colleges.
Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry’s Ray of Hope
Having grown up amidst financial hardships in Safed, Eyal Edry and his brothers, Moshe Edree and Refael Edry, empathize with the struggles of the underprivileged youth. They know what it’s like to curb your dreams due to a lack of resources and opportunities.
They founded the Ahinoam Association for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities to bridge the social inequity between Israel’s periphery and socioeconomic center. The organization runs various initiatives, such as long-term mentoring and scholarship programs, to support at-risk youth in the Israeli periphery.
At the onset of the pandemic, Eyal Edry realized the potential impact of Israel’s digital divide on Israeli students. He even approached the government for help. His goal was to provide computers to students from low-income families so that they could attend online classes.
But despite several requests, the government refused to recognize the problem or offer any solution.
That’s when Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Rafi Edry (AKA Refael) took matters into their own hands and launched a fundraising initiative. The purpose was to collect funds, and provide underprivileged students with computers.
The fundraising campaign by the Edry brothers turned out to be a groundbreaking endeavor that helped more than 30,000 Israeli students continue their education.
Apart from attending online classes, these students got the opportunity to regularly interact with their classmates. That, in turn, helped them retain a sense of familiarity despite the catastrophe unleashed by the pandemic.
The impact of Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry’s fundraising initiative has been instrumental in bridging the digital divide between the Israeli periphery and socioeconomic center. Also, it’s helped accelerate the adoption of e-learning in the country.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
It’s worth noting that in the absence of the initiative, a large section of Israeli students would’ve grown up believing their fellow citizens failed them during the crisis. They’d have turned into a generation of disillusioned and aimless youngsters who didn’t believe in the system.
The Edry brothers believe it would’ve been the biggest threat to Israel’s social resilience. Years of cutting-edge tech innovations and advancement would’ve been undone by a generation of neglected students.
The success of the Ahinoam Association’s fundraising initiative shows that the collective power of ordinary people will go a long way to alleviate digital inequity. However, Eyal Edry believes that government authorities must mobilize funds and empower welfare organizations to successfully implement such campaigns.