Distance/online learning is failing students, and the problem is exacerbated for children of color. An overwhelming number of children of color in the Twin Cities failed their entire school year as a result of the shift to online classes, and many of these students are showing signs of PTSD from the trauma they experienced during the Minneapolis Uprising, as well as the trauma from the pandemic as a whole.
My name is Ini Augustine, and I am the founder of Project Nandi. Project Nandi aims to prevent Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian students from being left behind by distance learning during the pandemic. We are working to promote educational equity and improve learning outcomes for students by providing technical support, laptops, and broadband assistance to families in need.
The funding being provided from the state is insufficient for the scope of need. Minnesota schools had a discrimination problem long before online learning: 34% of Minnesota students are students of color, but 64.4% of all disciplinary actions (defined as suspensions, expulsions, and exclusions) are taken against them. Only 50.8% of Indigenous students and 69.9% of Black and Latinx students graduate. It is evident from this data that Minnesota schools are pushing out students of color instead of educating them. Now, with classes continuing online this Fall, the digital divide will add another layer to the nearly impossible odds working against these students.
Education is a basic human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and currently, these students’ rights are being infringed upon. That’s where Project Nandi comes in: each child deserves a decent laptop and tech support to keep them online. We hope to fundraise enough to create in-home, customized learning spaces and tech support for four hundred children this school year. Project Nandi is named for Queen Nandi Bhebhe, a single mother who beat all the odds to raise and educate her son, Shaka Zulu, who would grow up to become the greatest king of the Zulus of South Africa. Project Nandi, at its core, is about beating the odds to give underestimated children all the opportunities they deserve.
So far, we’ve given thirty-two students the opportunity to access their online classes, and we’re working with Uplift MN, The Minnesota Parents Union, and The Village to provide wrap-around support. We’ve recently partnered with the Prodeo Academy, a school with 98% minority enrollment and 78% of students qualifying for free lunch, to provide their students with the technology and support they need. We’re also working to create a city-wide free WiFi program for students who can’t afford it.
We appreciate you sharing, donating, and commenting during this trying time. Thank you for continuing to prioritize children.