A Taupo father is concerned his struggle to pay for a school laptop programme is resulting in his kids being labelled as “poor”.
Troy Nicholson has two kids at Taupo Intermediate School where students can purchase a $1120 Hewlett Packard laptop to use as part of their daily lessons.
Parents can pay them off over two years with minimum weekly payments of $11.50 and Nicholson, wanting the best for his kids, has opted in.
Due to his low income he has however at times struggled to meet his payments but pays what he can afford and is adamant he will pay them off by the end of the year.
So when he missed a payment and one of his kids had her laptop taken off her and came home crying Nicholson was not happy.
“My child’s teacher approached her in the cloak bay and said “sorry I’m going to have to take that off you because your parents haven’t paid the payments”. What right does a teacher have to say that, why not contact me about it first?” he said.
“I don’t discuss what is happening with payments with my children because they are kids and they have put her in a position where she didn’t understand what was happening. They need to take into account low income families like myself.”
Nicholson said he also doesn’t understand why the laptops are so expensive and questioned why they can’t purchase one from another retailer.
“I contacted HP and that is the retail price but when a school buys them in bulk they get a discount so why are we not getting a discount? I don’t mind if that money is going towards part of the programme but it has not been made clear. For all we know the school could be pocketing the rest of the money,” he said.
He said it was causing his family a lot of unnecessary stress.
“What it comes down to is if they don’t have a laptop in class they are going to be judged and when they go onto college people will say “oh that is the child that didn’t have a laptop”. It is not good for their self esteem,” he said.
Principal Bill Clarke said Nicholson has his wires crossed and the school has gone out of its way to help him.
“The laptops were taken back at the end of term because [when they haven’t been fully paid for] and they go home and get lost there is $50 excess to pay,” he said.
He said the only reason one of Nicholson’s kids had her laptop taken was because her teacher jumped the gun and took them the week before.
Clarke said several reminders had been sent out to parents saying they could talk to him if they were having trouble with payments.
He emphasised the programme was not compulsory and that there were many students who had opted out. There were desktop computers available to those without laptops.
“If they don’t take up the laptop option we have high spec desktops in the classrooms. We have 630 kids and we are basically one to one so there is no kid in the school that doesn’t have access to either or,” he said.
Head of technology teacher Natalie Robinson said she was shocked by the concerns as the majority of feedback from those who had opted out had been positive.
“There is no stigma about it and there have been no problems,” she said.
Clarke said the school was not making any money out of the laptops.
“It is a package deal including the high spec laptop with a three year guarantee, on-site warranty repairs, two years insurance, all the licensed programmes including Microsoft that you would usually have to pay for separately, and a protective bag,” he said.
Robinson said having the same laptops also makes it easier for teachers to navigate lessons.
“Getting education through technology is the way of the future and if you allowed different devices teachers would end up saying it is too hard on top of everything else they do so kids would not get this education in technology,” she said.
She said the school has also not charged school fees for two years to allow parents to get involved.
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