Mechelen-based IT and media company Telenet has presented the Flemish government with the offer of an all-in ICT package that would provide schools with internet, wifi, computers, software, security and tech support.
The offer comes after it became clear last year that pupils in schools in the Flemish system – which includes Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels – were woefully under-equipped when schools moved over to distance learning.
Not only were the schools not prepared for the switch, but many pupils from more disadvantaged homes were lacking in basic needs, such as an internet connection (other than for phones) of a functioning computer. Even when a family did have a laptop, it had to be shared by two or three children or more.
Telenet has had a contract with the Flemish education system for a decade, to provide broadband internet to schools. With its new package, it hopes to take advantage of the campaign by education minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) to provide connectivity to every student in every level of education.
His so-called Digisprong programme (the word means something like ‘digital leap forward’) had already been announced for the fifth and sixth years of primary school and all schools in the various streams in the system – general, occupational, technical and arts. Each student would be equipped with a terminal of some sort – tablet, laptop or desktop – and the means to go online.
The programme would cost a total of €375 million this year and next.
This week Weyts announced an extension of that plan, at a cost of a further €10 million, to the other streams: special needs education, part-time occupational education, where students study two days and work three, and ‘learning time’ for employees who study one day a week while working.
“We noticed that schools have a lot of questions about the Digisprong from the Flemish government and that they see a lot of extra work to be done,” said Mark Aerts, CEO of YES.be, which is working with Telenet on the package.
“By making a full range available, we unburden and support schools in digitising their education.”