La Poste supports distance education during COVID-19

There is no question that the COVID-19 lockdown has been hard on parents trying to continue working without the usual resources of schools, childcare and the community. In France, all educational establishments were closed for eight weeks. The initial return to classrooms for pre-school and elementary school children began on a voluntary basis on May 11.

Throughout the crisis, La Poste has played a vital role in supporting the general public, especially the more vulnerable and those living in remote regions. More than 100,000 postal workers have been providing them with a link to the outside world as well as providing essential services to businesses.

Of course, there is more than one way to be cut off from society. How can a child keep up with distance education when there’s no computer or tablet in the family home?

The French ministry of education estimated that 200,000 pupils nationwide were without the means to connect to online learning due to lack of internet connection or lack of equipment.

La Poste has long been concerned about the digital divide and it had two education projects in the pipeline in partnership with the ministry, which it rapidly readied when the pandemic hit.

The first project was to help deliver spare school computer equipment to children in need. The schools packed up their available hardware and selected the pupils who would benefit. La Poste took over the distribution, respecting social distancing measures.

The second project to ensure continuity in education is run by La Poste’s digital subsidiary Docaposte.

‘Homework at home’ is a digital platform made available to schools to allow teachers to send schoolwork to their pupils in PDF format.

These assignments are then printed out and put into envelopes by the Docaposte technology. The delivery includes a postage paid envelope so that families can return the written tasks at no cost. Once returned to Docaposte, the pupils’ pages are scanned and uploaded onto the platform for teachers to view.

More than 21,000 educational establishment signed up to the homework platform, a third of the national total. ‘Homework at home’ has been up and running since April 10.

A team of 20 people was involved in setting up these projects, with an additional 300 staff in four Docaposte sites who handle the printing, sending, receiving and digitizing of the schoolwork.

This all took place against the backdrop of more than 40,000 La Poste staff transferring to teleworking within a very short space of time.

This was achieved partly thanks to the groundwork laid in 2019 when 190,000 La Poste staff were connected to a collaborative teleworking platform, one of the largest communities of professional users of this type of platform in Europe.

These are changing times for schoolchildren and for postal staff. Secondary schools in regions with fewer virus cases reopened on May 18. At the time of writing, a target date had not yet been announced for the reopening of France’s lycées, or high schools.

The UPU is working to track, highlight and analyze how Posts are connecting citizens with essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. To see how other Posts have contributed to their communities during the crisis or to submit a social or financial services initiative led by your Post, please visit the dedicated web page.