Home learning packs and devices to enable remote learning will soon start landing at the doors of thousands of Kiwi families from to support children stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Ministry of Education has confirmed the first of 2000 modems began being sent out earlier this week, with hard packs being sent from Thursday.
Devices will start to be dispatched next week.
They are being provided to families with school-aged children who don't have suitable learning devices or internet at home.
"The first devices and modems are being dispatched this week, and the first tranche of hard copy deliveries will make their way to homes on Thursday and will continue on Tuesday next week," the ministry said.
Two new educational TV channels, in English and Māori, are also being pulled together in record time to launch on Wednesday when the new school term starts - remotely, with both teachers and students teaching and studying in their homes.
Much-loved children's TV presenter Suzy Cato, who will front science, maths and other content on the English-language channel, said the whole lineup had only been finalised in the past week.
"Nothing like this has ever been done before," she said.
Others tapped for the English-language channel, which will screen free on TVNZ+2 and on Sky channel 502, include Lotto presenter Jordan Vandermade, neuroscientist Nathan Wallis and early childhood teacher Karen O'Leary, better known for her role in the TV show Wellington Paranormal.
The English and Māori channels will both screen from 9am to 3pm daily with programmes for the full age range from preschoolers to senior high school.
The Māori content will be on Māori Television's Te Reo channel on Freeview and on Sky's channel 82.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government had approved emergency funding for the package of $87.7 million, and "further additional funding might be required".
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Schools have reported that 80,000 families, with about a sixth of the country's 1.1 million children and young people under age 18, lack either suitable learning devices or Wi-Fi at home.
Many schools have lent out their school computers to families for the lockdown, and Hipkins said the Government has ordered 17,000 more laptops and Chromebooks due to arrive this month.
"We are working to secure thousands more devices from offshore," he said.
The devices will be owned by schools, and each school will decide whether to bring them back into the school or leave them with needy families when the lockdown ends.
They will be set up with software to block inappropriate content, and will be insured by the Education Ministry.
It will take longer to install broadband connections for all homes that don't have them, because of a worldwide shortage of modems driven by school closures which now affect 91 per cent of the world's schoolchildren.
"As supplies become available, we expect to ramp up to sending out thousands of modems each week. Around 2000 this week," Hipkins said.
"We believe there are about 350 students where there is currently no internet potential of any kind. We are exploring the possibility of satellite coverage for these households."
Priority for both devices and internet will be given to families with children studying for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) in Years 11 to 13.
In the meantime, the ministry is also dispatching 20,000 hard-copy learning packs this week and 40,000 next week, and Hipkins said up to 500,000 could be dispatched in total if schools remain closed.
He showed reporters packs for primary school children including school readers, workbooks, the School Journal, fold-out cards and guidance for parents.
Preschoolers will get large boxes including story books, felt-tip pens, crayons, chalk, a glue stick and other materials such as fabric, coloured cardboard and jigsaw puzzles.
All materials in the packs are also on the Learning from Home website to help teachers interact with students with their learning activities.
The ministry has told schools that the massive investment does not necessarily signal that schools and childcare centres will stay closed beyond April 22, when the current four-week lockdown is currently due to end.
"The Government is still working to a timeframe of a four-week lockdown, lifting on April 22, but we're planning for every scenario so that we have a resilient system and are taking this opportunity to invest in closing the digital divide," it said.
"That means, in education, developing robust distance learning infrastructure so that learners and ākonga don't miss out in any scenario, such as alert levels moving up and down or schools, kura and ECEs or kōhanga and puna reo having to stay closed for longer."