A further 21,000 Telstra internet dongles will be made available to Victorian public school students to ensure they can continue to learn from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Education minister James Merlino announced the new agreement with Telstra on Thursday, building on an earlier deal with the telco for 4000 SIM cards and 1000-SIM enabled dongles.
It brings the total number of free of charge SIM cards and dongles available to students without a home internet connection during remote and flexible learning to 26,000.
The first tranche of devices, which are currently being rolled out to students, will be prioritised for senior secondary students, particularly those doing their VCE, as well as students affected by the recent bushfires and families who cannot afford an internet connection.
All Victorian public schools moved to a remote learning model when term two returned earlier last week to slow the spread of COVID-19, though on-site learning remains available to students whose parents can’t work from home or those who are vulnerable.
Despite teething issues last week, the government said students had been completing both online and offline education materials, including through a new dedicated website, dubbed Learning from Home.
Victoria has also loaned more than 48,000 laptops and tablets to students since the start of term two, including more than 29,000 for primary students, more than 12,500 for secondary students and more than 1,800 for special-needs students.
The vast majority of these are understood to be classroom devices distributed by schools, with more than 6000 laptops and tablets also loaned to students by the government.
“We’re making sure no child misses out on learning during this period – providing a device to every child that needs one as well as internet access to thousands of Victorian students,” Merlino said.
“This new agreement will mean a further 21,000 internet access devices will be available to support Victorian students while they learn from home.”