An emotional letter from a schoolgirl in rural Romania pleading for a smartphone so she can continue learning during lockdown has gone viral.
The 14-year-old wrote to her mayor in Șuletea — a city near the eastern border with Moldova — to ask for help.
Schools in Romania have been shut since March 11 amid the COVID-19 confinement measures and students have been learning online.
But children from low-income families are less likely to have the internet at home or access to someone with a smartphone.
“I can’t continue school because I don’t have a phone," the girl wrote, detailing how her family was in a precarious financial situation.
"I know you have a good heart. All I ask is to borrow a phone, or if you could help me buy one. I’ll pay for it in monthly instalments from my allowance. I promise I won’t let you down.”
Ciprian Tamaş, the mayor of Șuletea, said he was touched by the letter and posted it to social media.
He promised to help her and other local students who lack access to internet.
“The girl and her seven siblings are very hard-working students and they deserve all the help they can receive," he told Euronews.
"We are amazed by the reactions this letter generated with Romanians from as far as Australia sending in their donations."
The principal of the girl's school told Euronews that 37 pupils don’t have access to smartphones to do their homework. Teachers leave assignments for them at the local bar or other meeting points and then return to retrieve the homework.
Following the mayor's post, many people contributed money and smartphones, including one for the author of the letter.
As schools remain closed across the country and classes are held online during lockdown, smartphones and mobile devices are the only way some students can keep up with the curriculum.
According to a study by World Vision Romania (WVR), almost 40 per cent of households in rural Romania lack internet connection and almost half do not own a computer.
Chronic absenteeism has been a problem in many of the schools from these communities long before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The pandemic and the need for students to rely on mobile devices have only made matters worse, with poverty preventing families to meet the most basic needs let alone make digital learning possible for their children,” Andreea Bujor, communication manager with WVR told Euronews.
Vaslui County, where the girl lives, is one of Romania's poorest regions and one of the most impoverished in the European Union.
It has the lowest level of employment and the highest dropout rates in the country with one in ten students failing to complete school.
Statistics show that 400 of the county’s 700 schools are equipped with only outdoor toilets, with no running water or heating and wooden floors that can collapse at any time.