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COVID-19 highlighting inherent inequality in education

Only 68% of children aged 5 to 14 in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities access the internet at home, compared with 91% of students from the most advantaged communities. 

Victorian not-for-profit, State Schools’ Relief is providing technological devices and internet connectivity to financially disadvantaged VCE students as schools transition to a distance education model due to COVID-19, with support from the Victorian State Government. 

As schools implement a distance education model, the demand for uniforms and shoes will dramatically reduce which State Schools’ Relief said has provided it with the opportunity to redirect funds into assisting families who are unable to afford the cost of a device and internet connectivity, with financially disadvantaged Year 12 students being prioritised first. 

Sue Karzis, CEO of State Schools Relief, states that the cost of a device can be prohibitive for families who are already struggling with the costs of living and by providing at-risk children with access to the technology to continue their education at home, will help alleviate some of the financial burden for them.  

“State Schools’ Relief began assisting in 1930, during the Great Depression. 90 years on, we continue to be a source of vital assistance for over 60,000 Victorian students per year,” she says. 

The VCOSS Victorian Budget Submission 2020-21 estimated that the out of pocket cost for a child or young person attending a state government primary school in metropolitan Melbourne in 2019 was $3,841. For secondary education, the cost was $5,368. 

In addition, 7.3% of Victorian households (180,000 households) persistently struggle to pay their energy bills and most people seeking emergency relief need support to pay their electricity bills, buy food, clothe children, pay rent or make mortgage repayments which has only been exacerbated with the recent spike in unemployment. 

As a result of COVID-19 relief organisations have seen a spike in requests for help with educational costs including uniforms, books excursions and internet connection. 

State Schools’ Relief provides at-risk students:

  • Lenovo 11E laptops (in line with DET specifications). Applications for these devices will o be received for students in Year 12 from targeted schools who have no access to a device in the first instance. Dependent upon demand, the devices will then be offered to other year levels.
  • Internet USBs with 50GB of data per month (for 3 months). Applications for these USBs will only be received for students who have no access to home internet.
  • Study packages comprising of a desk and chair (suitable for secondary students).
  • Standard stationery package for primary and secondary students.

Teachers of at-risk students are encouraged to apply for this assistance via the State Schools Relief website Applications opened April 22, 2020. 


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