The ability of schools to move lessons online during the pandemic has meant young people can continue their education during lockdowns and periods of self-isolation, even if in an imperfect way.
But remote learning has only been possible where children have access to laptops or computers at home. It’s just one of ways the pandemic has deepened inequality in education.
Legal & General is committed to building a better society through inclusive capitalism and ethical and socially responsible investment. During the pandemic we supported two initiatives aiming to give young people the tools they need to learn and build their futures.
When digital social impact platform LetsLocalise approached us in 2020, we were so inspired by their idea of mobilising the community to help schools that we swiftly agreed to not only get involved, but to become a founding partner.
Nicky Mihalop, CSR Manager "Lots of children in these deprived areas had little access to remote learning so providing them with laptops makes that possible.
Right from the start we could see the benefits of the platform as a way to build communities and help schools."
The digital fundraising platform enables schools and teachers to request support from the community in the form of time, money and resources.
As well as providing initial funding for LetsLocalise, Legal & General has provided resources for schools and has encouraged uptake of the platform at community level. For Legal & General, the project created a social return on investment.
Since October 2020, LetsLocalise has grown exponentially and now has over 300 schools on its platform.
“We have seen such a great intake in such a short period of time,” says Mihalop, “it’s grown almost daily.” The platform now has over 6,750 supporters and to date has impacted over 16,000 students – a figure which is set to grow as LetsLocalise aims to create support for one million children across the UK, and one billion globally.
One specific campaign that LetsLocalise has been focusing its energies on is the provision of laptops for schools. Entitled ‘It takes a village’, the campaign concentrates on getting laptops into schools where they are most needed.
Nicky Mihalop, CSR Manager "Schools, particularly those in deprived areas, are up to two years behind where they should be on account of the pandemic.
Lots of children in these deprived areas had little access to remote learning so providing them with laptops makes that possible, and also enables things like holiday clubs and evening clubs to help children who have fallen behind academically."
Mihalop points out that many companies, not just Legal & General, possess laptops that are not being used. “By donating laptops to schools we are helping children get the education they deserve and benefiting the community.”
Thus, the laptop programme perfectly aligns with some of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include ensuring quality education and responsible consumption.
In Bermuda, Legal & General Reinsurance (L&G Re) has launched a similar initiative, Lighthouse Connect, which aims to raise enough funds to provide laptops to all of Bermuda’s state school students, supporting their education through the pandemic and beyond.
Claire Percy, CSR Lead at Legal & General Reinsurance “We discovered that many state school students in Bermuda didn’t have electronic devices at home to support their studies, and the pandemic highlighted this issue.
Recognising the increased need for digital learning tools, Lighthouse Connect aims to keep this generation of students affected by the pandemic on track to achieve their educational goals and life ambitions.”
Launched in May 2020, Lighthouse Connect is hosted by the Bermuda Community Foundation in partnership with the Mirrors Programme, a youth-focused organisation. L&G Re donated the seed funding and invited additional corporate and individual donors to contribute to Lighthouse Connect, which acquires laptops in stages as funds are raised. The Ministry of Education-approved devices are then distributed in order of need, a process managed by the Mirrors Programme. So far 306 laptops have been delivered.
“Providing these essential learning tools is an investment in the potential of Bermuda’s youth,” says Percy. “The laptops enabled state school students to learn remotely during the pandemic and through this initiative, L&G Re and other companies can support the state education system in Bermuda to ensure no student is left behind. Ultimately, this will equip students with the resources to help them build a career, increasing employability and adding to the wider society.”
While schools are open again both in Bermuda and the UK, digital learning tools will still be needed after the world recovers from the pandemic. Furthermore, digital literacy is essential in the modern workplace so the work of Lighthouse Connect and LetsLocalise will continue to be important to children’s futures.