When COVID-19 hit, ERCRS had to find a new way to engage the primary aged students who attended its Homework Clubs.

The children have developed good relationships with the programs and rely on the support of their tutors to keep up with their work at school. ERCRS families are already socially isolated, so to not have a connection with the service could be potentially damaging to the broader family support structure. Compounding things was that Ramadan was a time that some of many ERCRS students disengaged with school.

ERCRS faced significant challenges in ensuring their homework clubs could continue. Firstly, many of the volunteer tutors were unable to join online due to their own school child protection policies. Secondly, many of the families have issues with digital literacy and/or digital poverty.

ERCRS adapted this critical service thanks to the ongoing support of ERFA, Edmund Rice Camps volunteers across the country and others such as RMIT. ERCRS were able to develop a highly skilled, national volunteer base and source laptops from Loreto College and Caroline Chisholm Catholic College for families whose schools would not loan them laptops.

“Some children haven’t had an opportunity to have live ‘face-to-face’ interactions with their peers. You can tell it means a lot to them when they are so excited to see each other on the screen each week and engage in learning activities with their tutors” – Anthony, Program Coordinator

The number of children attending has been growing steadily and in some programs they are doing even better than the same time last year, where many stayed at home during the month of Ramadan. The program coordinators and their support staff have been working hard to create a meaningful experience for the children enrolled in the program.

Many of them are happy to have something to do after school and see their friends again, albeit digitally, and play some fun learning games or get help with their homework. Some parents have been overwhelmed with trying to support their child’s education from home and have been very appreciative of the extra help ERCRS can provide them.

“There’s around a 20% rise in attendance overall in one particular program and about a 75% increase in attendance of Muslim children specifically, relative to the previous Ramadan period.” (ERCRS Staff)

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