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Ulster University, Ulster Community Investment Trust and Santander Universities unite to fund access to learning

At a time when young people need to study at home during COVID-19, Ulster University in partnership with generous partners, Ulster Community Investment Trust and Santander Universities, has raised funds to support community groups and schools in Derry~Londonderry.

On recognising that not all young people have the access to the technology they urgently need, Ulster University and partners has collaborated with local community groups to address the problem.

Speaking on behalf of one of the community groups in receipt of the support, Thomas McCallion, Manager of On Street Community Youth said:

“The support from Ulster University has been significant during Covid 19. Their funding has enabled us to purchase five laptops for community schooling in partnership with St Brigid’s College. We have also been able to purchase four tablets that are now being used to deliver virtual youth support programmes for local young people across the Ballyarnett DEA. The tablets are delivered to participants, with WiFi Dongles, and they take part in online group work with their friends.

Many young people face the unfortunate position of not having the relevant IT equipment at home or the internet capability to keep up with the demands and what has become the new way of learning via online educational materials. Without the support and foresight of Ulster University we would not have been in a position to have this initiative set up so quickly.  Ulster University, Santander Universities and the Ulster Community Investment Trust deserve recognition for working closely with the community sector to help address this very real problem.”

49 Lenovo Chromebook S340-14 laptops, WiFi dongles and four tablets have been distributed to community groups in Derry~Londonderry. These community groups; On Street Community Youth, St Mary’s Youth Club, Long Tower Youth & Community Centre and Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership, have distributed the laptops to young people in Year 11, Year 13 and P6.

The 11 local schools chosen to receive this support are: Gaelscoil Éadain Mhóir, St John’s Primary School, Nazareth House Primary School, Long Tower Primary School, Holy Child Primary School, St Cecilia’s College, St. Mary’s College, St Joseph’s College, St Brigid’s College and Lisneal College, Oakgrove Integrated College.

Dr Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of the Magee Campus at Ulster University said:

“There is a real need for the provision of laptops in communities across the city and wider society. We are pleased to be able to make some contribution to this on-going issue. The reality is, not all young people have access to computers and or the internet at this time. These laptops will enable local young people to learn by accessing their online learning resources. At Ulster University, we recognise how the journey to University can start at an early age. This is a critical juncture for local young people in terms of their educational journey.  We, through our Community Engagement team and in partnership with Santander Universities and the Ulster Community Investment Trust, are delighted to be able to support our local communities in these challenging times.”

Harry McDaid, Chief Executive, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) said:

“Our collaboration with those who value social capital, and respond to where it is most needed, is at the heart of all that we do. The decision to support this project was easy, after all, my own early education was in Derry. It is greatly rewarding to know that our support has contributed to the education of our young people, what better investment exists than that.”

Matt Hutnell, Director, Santander Universities, said:

“Santander is committed to supporting higher education as well as local communities across the UK so we’re pleased that our funding is able to be redirected to where it is most needed at this critical time.Universitiesare doing some fantastic work to contribute to the UK’s effort to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, so we’re delighted to collaborate with our university partners in a way which increases their response effort and look forward to continuing to work with them on supporting both students and the broader higher education community with further initiatives over the coming months.”

Ulster University’s civic mission has been put into action at other campuses too. At the Coleraine campus, the School of Education has helped primary schools in the Causeway Coast and Glens Area. In Belfast, Ulster University (via the Santander Universities Fund) and the National Lottery supported the Belfast Charitable Trust to fund laptops and WiFi access to 225 students across five secondary schools.