Digital literacy workshops ensure underprivileged children do not get left behind

Volunteer coach Alan Soh (left) and Tan Shi Rou take part in the Void Deck Technology Lab digital literacy workshop on Feb 24, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
The sessions are targeted at underprivileged children between the ages of seven and 12 largely living in rental flats. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - On most days, Tan Shi Rou, 11, does not have much time to learn using digital devices as she has to share a laptop with her sister, so she treasures going to workshops to use technology to learn about her favourite animal - the penguin.

The Primary 5 student has attended four sessions of the Void Deck Technology Lab digital literacy workshop at Nanyang Community Club. Shi Rou, daughter to a taxi driver and a restaurant waitress, looks forward to the fortnightly lessons.

Children like Shi Rou get the chance to build up their digital skills at these workshops by trying their hand at new technology such as augmented reality. Volunteer teaching staff cover science and technology lessons with the children.

The sessions are targeted at underprivileged children between the ages of seven and 12 largely living in rental flats, in efforts to equip them with skills needed for the digital economy.

The workshop is hosted by Byte.sg, a non-profit initiative, and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority's Digital for Life Fund, which was launched by President Halimah Yacob last year.

Sixteen upper primary pupils participated in the workshop at Nanyang Community Club in Jurong West on Thursday night (Feb 24).

Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information Rahayu Mahzam visited the workshop and pressed the importance of building a digitally inclusive society.

The program is meaningful as the children get to utilise technology and learn things that are not in textbooks, she said.

"I hope that we can continue to build this community. We want Singaporeans to embrace digital, enjoy and enrich their lives through digital and learn in a fun and interesting way."

Ms Rahayu added that $4.9 million of the Digital for Life Fund has been earmarked for such community projects, which is expected to benefit more than 100,000 people.

Byte.sg co-founder Maria Wilson, 32, said the less fortunate in Singapore remain underserved in terms of technological empowerment.

Ms Wilson said that digital skills are important when children enter the workforce in future.

She said: "Without the right levels of exposure and guidance, it is so difficult for children from low-income households to gain the skills needed to be successful in our digital age. Children of today need to be digitally fluent, not just digitally literate."

Sixteen upper primary school children participated in the workshop at Nanyang Community Club on Feb 24, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Ms Valerie Lee, 27, a volunteer at the workshop, said she is passionate about the cause as these children may not have access to the same opportunities as others who are more fortunate.

"It's not just about teaching them science, or soft and hard digital skills. We are trying to build their character and teach them to grow as well."

She added: "Seeing kids who were shy at first gain confidence to speak up to answer questions or present in front of the class is fulfilling." 

Other than at Nanyang Community Club, the workshops are also held in places such as Yishun and Bedok, serving around 50 children collectively.

There are plans to expand and hold the workshops in Tampines and Spooner Road in Tanjong Pagar, and aims to raise the number of participants to 100 by the end of the year.

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