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  • Writer's pictureJY Yong

CNM Cares: An Introduction

The idea of studying is inseparable from the laptop. And for good reason: we're all attending Zoom University, Zoom Secondary School, even Zoom Primary School.

So imagine that you're about to start school today, booting up your laptop, opening LumiNUS or Zoom but -

you don't have a laptop -

and you realise that elsewhere in Singapore, thousands of other students are forging ahead along an educational journey that you can't access.

So you use your phone to access Zoom, but what happens when your worksheets are online too?

As you squint at the small screen of your handheld device, you wonder what it'd be like to have an actual keyboard and mouse. Wouldn't it be so much easier, as it is for those who have a laptop?

This is the reality facing students in the digital divide, a reality that stretches before and beyond COVID-19.

The evidence of laptop ownership conceals the underprivileged in its high numbers.

81% of households have a personal computer. But what of the other 19%?

A closer look reveals only 31% of 1- or 2-room HDB flats have a personal computer. 44% of families with children aged six and under lack a computer or laptop at home.

That's not very smart of a supposed "Smart Nation".

Granted, the Ministry of Education is doing their part to supply every student with a "personal learning device" by 2024. But is this enough? Is there more that we, as fellow students, can do to help?

Let's go deeper.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.

In this case, the fish is made of bytes and data. What use is a laptop if a student doesn't know how to use it properly?

That which is intuitive to us, may not be obvious to the underprivileged who don't prioritise laptops in their household. This extends even to simple tasks like Microsoft Office or accessing your student portal.

And what of the dangers of the Internet? Who will steward the student who's just gotten Internet access around the harmful parts of our online world?

Again, the numbers speak volumes. Singaporeans lost $82 million through scams, including online ones, last year. It isn't fair for the children who have just gotten Internet access to contribute to this amount. They haven't been informed about what to be wary of.

And, more personally and distressingly, what of child grooming? You may be familiar with the Discord moderator meme, but it's happening in Singapore too, at the tender age of 13, no less.

Finally, cyberbullying has always been rampant since the initial days of the Internet, and has only gotten worse over time. One only needs to remember the teen who even tried committing suicide to end the cyberbullying she was going through.

With only you and your laptop against the world, without any guide to safe Internet use, a system shutdown would be just over the horizon.

At this point, it may be tempting to say "these kids are too young, keep them off the Internet until they're mature enough". But when is that?

We know our budding digital economy waits for no one: memes, trends, even business practices and economic forces change in the blink of an eye. For those who, not by choice, do not have digital access, education and work will become an uphill battle.

So what should we do about it?

6 months ago, I wrote an article on the Digital Divide. It was a personal tale of how my laptop, in its death throes, couldn't even execute the most basic tasks without overheating.

Now, I have a new laptop. But getting one like that is a privilege that I'm acutely aware of. And we as CNM Cares would like to bring this to students who need it.

CNM Cares is a community service project under CNM Society, where we aim to help the community in a way that only CNM students can.

Fuelled by your donations - either of laptops or funds - we will bring digital access to at-risk youths in Muhammadiyah Welfare Home (MWH), which already has an established IT skills course.

Adding on to the skills taught by MWH, we will provide our own curriculum mentoring these youths in digital safety and literacy. These range from the basics of protecting themselves from cyberbullying, to more in-depth discussions about their digital footprint.

Our curriculum not only gives them some mileage out of their newly acquired laptops, it also equips them for the digital economy and education system that they would otherwise be locked out from.

Every dollar or laptop you donate today - to our fundraiser here, and our laptop donation drive here - will contribute to their education tomorrow. Laptops may not be cheap, but together we can make a difference by pooling together many small donations.

Follow us on our Instagram account here for more updates.

Let's show those in the digital divide that CNM Cares.

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