NTUC First Campus helping pre-schoolers and their families bridge digital divide with iPad loans

Madam Susilawati Thamrin and her five-year-old daughter Alesha Nur Shareefa Haminorrashid will benefit from the Digital Kampung Programme. PHOTO: NTUC FIRST CAMPUS

SINGAPORE - NTUC First Campus (NFC) will loan iPads to more than 2,000 low-income families and their children attending its pre-schools over the next three years, to help bridge the digital divide.

Under a new scheme called Digital Kampung Programme, the devices will be loaned out on a short-term basis of up to three months each time.

Families with monthly household incomes of $4,500 or less, or monthly individual incomes of $1,125 or less, are eligible.

Their children should be in Kindergarten 1 or Kindergarten 2 in one of NFC's My First Skool centres.

They need to have hit at least 50 per cent attendance in the month prior to qualify.

In a media release last week, the pre-school operator said the iPads will come with educational materials and mobile applications to support children's learning and encourage high-quality screen time, as well as resources for parents to communicate with the pre-school online.

Parents will also receive a starter kit that contains a guide on how to use the device, along with tips on screen time and cyber wellness.

In addition, NFC will provide SIM cards for low-income families without Wi-Fi access so that they can access the Internet.

The programme will be fully supported from 2021 to 2023 by a donation from FairPrice Foundation.

The charity arm of the supermarket chain announced last Wednesday (Dec 23) that it gave $250,000 to NFC's Bright Horizons Fund.

FairPrice Foundation donated the same amount to NTUC Health's Eldercare Trust, which provides financial assistance to seniors.

The money will go towards supporting NTUC Health's information technology infrastructure to benefit more than 5,000 seniors.

Mrs Phoon Chew Ping, NFC's deputy chief executive officer (development), said: "With Covid-19 disrupting the education landscape, NFC has leveraged technology to support children's learning.

"We recognise that some of our low-income families and children risk falling behind, as they lack the necessary digital devices and know-how."

Madam Susilawati Thamrin learnt how to use an iPad loaned to her family as part of a pilot. PHOTO: NTUC FIRST CAMPUS

Madam Susilawati Thamrin, whose youngest daughter Alesha Nur Shareefa Haminorrashid, five, attends a My First Skool centre in Toa Payoh, will benefit from the programme in 2021.

In November, the 44-year-old fast food restaurant worker learnt how to use an iPad loaned to her family as part of a pilot.

Using the device, she got to watch her six-year-old daughter Azleen Nur Aishyah's K2 graduation concert over Zoom, and joined a virtual workshop to learn how to cook healthy banana pancakes and spaghetti for her children.

Madam Susilawati, who has six children aged five to 21, said: "The pictures in the starter kit helped me to learn how to use the iPad."

Her husband works as a food delivery rider and their monthly household income is $1,400.

"Previously, Alesha had to share a laptop with three of her siblings. We borrowed the laptop from her sibling's primary school but have since returned it," said Madam Susilawati.

"It was very difficult during the circuit breaker period because all of them would be fighting for the laptop."

Having the iPad at home meant Alesha could reinforce certain concepts she learnt in school.

"She enjoys using educational apps on the iPad to learn spelling and counting," said Madam Susilawati.

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