The head teacher of an inner-city Dublin school has said he is delighted after generous well-wishers donated 60 laptop computers so disadvantaged students can attend classes remotely during lockdown.
Sixty students at the Larkin Community College in Cathal Brugha Street will now be able to tune in along with their 340 classmates as online classes at the DEIS secondary school resume following the Christmas break.
It is all thanks to an initiative by college patron and Dublin businessman Paul Brereton, who put out an appeal on social media and through his own personal network.
Mr Brereton, president of the Irish Antique Dealers Association and boss of Core Bullion Traders, issued the call late last week on the Instagram account of the Vintage Hub, a page dedicated to vintage furniture dealers, and the response he got was overwhelming.
"I put up the alert at 9pm and it just went off. I'm in the thick of it. I've been at it since 4.30am," he said of ordering the Chrome Book laptops.
The donations came in thick and fast and by Sunday night, the target was reached.
College head teacher Thomas Usher said he is delighted with the response and hopes the initiative can be replicated in other schools where students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and cannot afford laptops.
"It's been amazing," he said of the response.
Mr Usher added that they got the first delivery of the devices on Monday and said they were to be delivered to pupils yesterday.
The donations will make a "significant difference" to the students, who had been either doing their remote learning via a smart phone or sharing a single computer with siblings or were simply not able to take part in online teaching.
"We did a survey of students and if they do have a device they're sharing it," Mr Usher said.
Many of the college's student population are from immigrant backgrounds.
Some are living in emergency accommodation in the area due to the ongoing homelessness crisis or come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Despite this, the school has a 93pc progression rate for graduates to go on to third-level education, "which is phenomenal for a DEIS inner city school", Mr Usher said.
The laptops will make a huge difference for the parents of students who are struggling to make ends meet.
"The value of education is high, especially for new Irish who will go into debt to pay for their children's education," Mr Usher said.
"At a time when all we're hearing is bad news, this has really turned it on its head."
Father-of-three Mr Brereton has been a patron of the school for the past three years after he got involved in a fundraiser for his children's school in Clontarf and realised how the need for funds was much greater in less well-off neighbourhoods.
He approached Mr Usher and has been offering his support ever since.
"I just wanted to help out," he said."These kids need to have the top equipment so they can have a chance."
However, he said it is the donors who are the real heroes.
"I just directed traffic a bit. This really strikes a chord with everyone," Mr Brereton said, adding that one donor is based in Cork.
"Education is the most important thing you can give to someone."
Mr Usher and Mr Brereton hope they can keep the momentum going and would be delighted if other schools got involved.
Anyone interested in helping out can contact Mr Brereton at firstname.lastname@example.org