British backing for Bridging the Digital Divide


A leading British wealth management firm’s charitable foundation is investing £30,000 in the first stage of World ORT’s plan to establish ICT training in schools for children with special needs throughout Russia.

The St James’s Place Foundation’s support meets the first year’s costs in implementing Bridging the Digital Divide, a four-year, non-sectarian programme to enhance the career prospects of deaf children, and represents the largest single corporate donation in British ORT’s history. The Foundation has earmarked a similar amount for next year subject to progress.

“This is a project with a future,”? said British Friends of ORT Co-Chair Susan Roffman, who convinced the Foundation of its merits. “We’re doing it in Russia but there’s no reason why we couldn’t help thousands of children worldwide. I’m very excited about it.”? The money will establish fully equipped ICT laboratories at two pilot schools, Boarding School No. 30 in Moscow and Vocational Training Boarding School No. 2 in Tula which together educate some 360 hearing impaired students.
In partnership with Hewlett-Packard, local education authorities and social support services, ORT will use the experience of the Moscow ORT Technology College, which is a pioneer of ICT training and distance learning for hearing impaired students, to develop tailored ICT and computer graphics training materials which will ultimately be shared with all teachers of deaf children for use in their schools. And it will connect the pilot schools and supporting ORT centres to the ORT e-learning network.
“The computer centre which ORT installed at the Tula school in 2008 has made teachers aware that deaf children learn ICT skills in a different way to those with hearing; there’s a greater need for repeated practice of new techniques rather than passive learning,”? said British ORT’s Director of Fundraising, Dr Noga Zivan.
“This project builds on the experience of the past two years. Developing a curriculum tailored to the needs of hearing impaired students will enable their more effective preparation for working life. And by training the teachers we could benefit the 200,000 children in Russia who are thought to have hearing impairment,”? Dr Zivan added.
“British ORT is very pleased to be working with the St James’s Place Foundation on this important project to improve the educational experience of some of the most disadvantaged young people in the Former Soviet Union. We believe this project has the capacity to make a massive difference to the lives of deaf students and we look forward to developing it with the Foundation’s support,”? she said.
The computer centre installed at the Tula Vocational Training Boarding School is one of 16 business skills training centres that HP and ORT have set up in Russia and Ukraine under the Graduate Entrepreneurship Training through IT (GET-IT) scheme, which focuses on the need to encourage job creation and entrepreneurship among young people by providing training courses dealing with practical IT solutions for daily business challenges.
The equipment installed for GET-IT will be used for at least the initial stages of Bridging the Digital Divide at Tula, which is the only educational institution in Russia focused on children with special needs from low income families. Like other schools for the deaf, Tula has suffered from chronic underinvestment in recent years. Traditionally it has taught pupils skills in metal working, shoemaking and tailoring but now, with ORT’s help, students can keep pace with the rapid rate of social and technological change.
But ORT Russia National Director Dr Sergey Gorinskiy says the new project will not replace the teaching of traditional skills.
“We are expanding what is on offer to give people more possibilities,”? Dr Gorinskiy said. “We are giving students greater choice, opening new horizons career-wise as well as simply giving them the opportunity to be full citizens of the new digital society.”?
The Manager of the St James’s Place Foundation, Mark Longbottom, said that investing in the project was an exciting decision.
“People at the Foundation like the potential sustainability of the project,”? Mr Longbottom said. “It’s offering something that can be replicated and can continue to make a difference many years down the track. It’s not a one-off impact; it’s something that can be passed on.”?
The St James’s Place Foundation is the charitable arm of the St James’s Place Wealth Management Group, which has more than £23 billion of funds under management. The Foundation relies on the Group’s partners and staff to raise funds which are then matched by the company. Since 1999, a total £17.5 million has been raised to support hundreds of charities and projects benefiting sick or disabled children in the UK, Africa and Eastern Europe.
World ORT’s collaboration with HP began in 2001 with the “リDigital Village’ programme in Dikhatole, near Johannesburg. In 2004, HP and ORT again joined forces to open Digital Community Centres in Slavutych, Ukraine and Tula, Russia, and within a year the Micro Enterprise Acceleration Programme Centre was opened in Samara. In 2007, HP initiated GET-IT which seeds entrepreneurial energy and develops business and IT skills in young people and recent graduates. ORT Russia has established 16 GET-IT centres in Russia and Ukraine.