Tablets For Students
The Sarker Hope Foundation, a local Parc-Extension community organization distributed tablets to local primary and secondary students on Saturday.
Five local students were awarded brand-new tablets in an effort to make at-home learning and virtual classes easier and more accessible.
This is part of a campaign by the Sarker Hope Foundation to distribute a total of 500 tablets to those who need them most for their schooling. The program concentrates its efforts on Parc-Extension residents but is available to all Montrealers.
Possible through donations
The organization has worked closely in the community over the past year, assisting those most in need. This has included the distribution of masks and PPE, delivery of food boxes and assisting with transportation for elderly and low-income people.
The event was attended by several members of the Sarker Hope Foundation, along with Québec Solidaire MNA for Laurien-Dorion Andrés Fontecilla.
All of the Sarker Hope Foundation’s programs are funded through private donations, including $500 from city councillor Mary Deros and $2000 from Andrés Fontecilla.
The program was started by the foundation to address the glaring lack of access to technology for schooling among certain Parc-Extension families.
The foundation conducted a survey in the area to assess the needs of the community and to determine what could be done better to address them. The survey was conducted with over 350 respondents and was statistically representative of the area.
“We found out that a lot of families, single parents, or low-income families, they don’t have the ability, or the luxury to have at least one computer or laptop or tablet to communicate with their school teachers to learn,” Said Mustaque Sarker, founder and president of the Sarker Hope Foundation.
“So we came up with the idea that we should give to the people who are the people who need it,” stated Sarker, adding “our target is 500.”
“We are giving from our part, a tablet, so children can learn and succeed in their life,” he added.
How it works
The foundation runs this program on an eligibility basis and gives the tablets to students who demonstrate they need them the most.
Students that are using a parent’s laptop or phone or who are borrowing a computer from the school to complete lessons are therefore eligible.
“There are a few schools here we have in Parc-Ex, school teachers and principals, they recommend it,” said Sarker of how they work closely with teachers and principals to find the students that could benefit the most from the technology.
“They know on a day-to-day basis the children’s needs,” said Sarker.
Future game developer
One of those awarded with a tablet on Saturday was 16-year-old Parc-Extension resident Araf Rahaman Shah. Currently studying at Lauren Hill Academy, he had previously been using a laptop on loan from the school.
“I was confused at first, I didn’t know why I needed an iPad,” said Araf on receiving the new tablet, but added that it would help in his schooling and his upcoming CEGEP studies. “Yeah, I’m happy,” he said.
Araf, who is studying towards one day working in the video game industry, either as a game developer or as an artist, said that his dream would guide his academic path. “I know what my job is going to be, but I don’t know which classes in CEGEP I’m going to do,” he said.
“I’m going to work at Nintendo, that’s my goal,” Araf said.
Preference for online learning
The second to have received a new tablet was Fernando Gabriel Rojas Diaz. He is currently completing grade 6 at Barthélemy-Vimont Elementary School and will be attending Lucien-Pagé High School next year. Fernando actually prefers the online learning experience over going into class.
Expecting to be going back to an online learning experience after a year of attending school in person, Fernando was very pleased to be receiving the tablet.
“I was using an old phone that my mom had before,” said Fernando.
He added that virtual classes would now be easier to attend with a bigger screen and on a newer device. Fernando is also looking forward to working in video games and technology.
Fernando was awarded the tablet by both Mr. Mustaque Sarker and Andrés Fontecilla, before exchanging a few words in both English, French and Spanish with the local politician.
Vanessa Viel, client support lead at the Sarker Hope Foundation, said that they are filling a need felt in the community that isn’t always addressed through existing mechanisms.
“Lots of schools lend a tablet, the kid has a chance to do homework and the next day has to return the tablet,” said Viel. “It gets a bit tricky,” she added.
Viel also said that this was not because schools didn’t want to supply the material but rather due to a lack of resources and funds. “This is why we put it upon ourselves to do something about it,” she said.
That viewpoint was seconded by the foundation’s president. “As a community, residents all have our own responsibility to help neighbours and help others,” said Sarker when asked why the organization decided to put forward the tablet program. “This is kindness, this charity,” he added.
“This is the way you make the country’s future better for our children,” he concluded.