School fears as Telecom axes $120m scheme

01:43, Jan 31 2009

After hearing Telecom was axing its education sponsorship scheme that earned $60,000 for his school, John Schollum had to pick his "jaw up from the carpet".

The Havelock North Intermediate principal was shocked when a Telecom official called to say it would stop funding the School Connection scheme next July.

Since its inception in 1993, the scheme has raised about $120 million, by letting residential line customers earn money or technology points for their nominated school.

Telecom said this week that the programme had achieved its goal in assisting schools into the online age and that it hoped another sponsor would take over next year.

Mr Schollum said his school would earn about $60,000 through the scheme this year, and he "picked my jaw up from the carpet" after hearing of Telecom's withdrawal. "It was the last thing I was expecting."

The 600-student school has recruited 3557 Telecom customers as sponsors – believed to be the third highest in the country. This has funded 50 leased computers, together with support equipment, training and maintenance by a technician.

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Mr Schollum said computers were vital for students' education and school administration and he was now looking for ways to raise money.

"It's not the sort of money you can save by cutting back on photocopying and turning off lights."

He was disappointed with Telecom's decision but was grateful for the company's support for the scheme.

While it was not fair that his school was dependent on a private source for funding, he would accept other forms of sponsorship to keep the computers running.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff said schools earned an average of $3500 a year through the scheme.

"That does mean you have to to a run few more cake stalls to make that up."

The Dominion Post