Donated laptops arrive just in time for Grade 10 students at Yarrabilba Secondary College in Logan

Grade 10 student Mangope Kasindi is so confident and articulate when describing the voice assistant program he has created for himself that it is easy to forget that he has no only started learning English three years ago.

During that time, he’s learned the language so well that the student – now school captain at Yarrabilba State Secondary College, south of Brisbane – can calmly discuss his passion for coding and “computer manipulation”.

“I had to learn [English] From the beginning it was really difficult, but it gets easier as the years go by. Now I can write my name, write a whole essay,” he said, offering what his teachers dubbed his trademark smile.

“Last year I started learning Python…programming stuff and made myself a voice assistant.

“I do it for myself at home, but this year me and my friends are starting a band.”

The group is a coding tutorial that Mangope will host at lunchtime with the aim of helping his classmates improve their skills.

It was made possible through a donation of computers and a fleet of new laptops from Logan-based social enterprise Substation33.

A fleet of new laptops has been donated to Yarrabilba State Secondary College.(ABC News: Tobias Jurss-Lewis)

“In 10th grade, everyone is going to have their own laptop with the help of the [program]”said Mangope.

“Last year a lot of people didn’t have laptops and now we do.

“It’s going to be really awesome…more people are going to have access to the computer and it’s going to be really easy to learn.”

Substation33 employs local job seekers to reuse and recycle technology.

Their work with Yarrabilba College will be crucial both to Mangope’s coding group and to helping the school’s first cohort through another year of pandemic learning.

“We are a new school, so this is the first time we have 10 years this year,” said Yarrabilba Secondary College Principal Belinda Tregea.

A student and a teacher wearing face masks examining two school computers
Mangope Kasindi and Belinda Tregea check out the school’s new laptop fleet.(ABC News: Tobias Jurss-Lewis)

“They are required to bring their own devices [but] we know that under the current circumstances the devices are really hard to come by and many families have also been affected by COVID-19,” Ms Tregea said.

This means that between financial pressures and hardware shortages, some students might struggle to get laptops in a year when they desperately need them.

“To make sure we can meet the needs of all of our students, we have these laptops at very low prices that we can use for lessons at school or if students want to buy their own devices at a reasonable price.”

Two women in black T-shirts installing computers
Substation33 staff installing new computers at Yarrabilba State Secondary College.(ABC News: Tobias Jurss-Lewis)

Looking forward to a “messy” year

Ms Tregea said the 2022 school year will bring many uncertainties and it will be crucial for staff and students to work and interact remotely.

“Partnering with Substation33 has been so good for us and for our students for a whole host of reasons,” she said.

“At a time when there is very little certainty in the world, this at least gives us certainty that our students will have access to the devices they need to learn, whether onsite or offsite.”

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