Under new rules, schools in high-risk regions in Italy have switched to distance learning until the end of the Easter Holidays.
This is not uncommon across Europe. However, in one of the least digitally developed countries in the EU, it presents a major obstacle to education. A third of Italian households don’t have a computer, and the pandemic has brought the issue of the nation's digital divide to public attention.
Now a nationwide fundraising campaign has pledged to help solve the problem.
Not having a computer is a major issue when studying at home. And the fact that Italy kept schools shut for longer than many European countries as a result of the pandemic means that many have no option but to home school.
Moreover, public funds have not managed to cover the provision of devices to Italian students.
“Digitali e Uguali” (Digital and Equal) is a new nationwide campaign, launched by several media companies and charity organisations, to help schools buy personal computers for struggling families.
“The campaign has been a success. This is a great sign. Over 1,400 schools have been in touch in just 10 days. That’s quite significant. It shows that there is an actual need for personal computers, especially among younger students," says Maurizio Molinari, Editor-in-Chief of La Repubblica newspaper.
“In a country like Italy that has been so badly hit by the pandemic and with so many victims, the fact that people have donated 10, 15 or even 50 euros to allow these young students to work from home shows that certain values of social Christianity are deeply rooted in the country.”
Euronews visited a school in Rome which has requested 10 personal computers through the joint initiative.
“During the emergency we have seen students literally disappearing while doing distance learning as they had problems in connecting and following lessons," says Tullia Aurelio, a tutor at IC Montalcini. "In some cases when families with more than one child can only rely on one laptop, the single device is being used by one of the parents who work from home.”
Today more than ever, the digital gap is a Europe-wide issue, and making economies more digital is one of the main pillars of the EU recovery fund.
“Draghi’s government announced that within 2026 everyone will get the broadband wifi connection. It’s quite a long wait," Molinari says. "I think we have to do more and faster as this has to do with the circulation of intellectual content. That means making our companies more competitive at an international level”.