New South Wales
Not all kids look forward to starting a new school year. For some, term time means struggling through classes without any of the essentials needed for learning. A lack of the basic tools needed – like a pen – can have far-reaching consequences for students. Teacher Nat Panzarino explains what she is doing to help – and how you can get involved.
Starting school for the year is an exciting – and sometimes nerve-wracking – time for most kids.
Putting on a fresh uniform and shiny shoes, picking up that brand new backpack filled with fun and interesting things, and heading out the door for a full day of learning and play.
But what if you were the kid whose uniform is stained and ill-fitting or not quite right, your backpack is far from brand- new, and there isn’t anything new and exciting inside.
In fact, there’s nothing inside.
No lunch, no new pencil case filled with the latest and coolest stationery, no stack of empty exercise books waiting to be filled with new knowledge…not even a pen.
The stark reality is that many more families than we would like to believe are living hand-to-mouth in Sydney, and often times there are other priorities that come first; food on the table, electricity bills, clothing, medical expenses, and the list goes on. While most parents work hard to provide for their kids, some go without necessities.
One in 7 children in NSW are living in poverty, according to a recent study by the NSW Council of Social Services – higher than any other mainland state. Not being able to afford school supplies is just one of many problems these children may face, and it’s one with far-reaching consequences. If a child doesn’t have basic supplies, and reliable access to a pen or pencil, their learning is compromised both in the classroom and at home.
The concept behind “Got A Pen?” started in my own classroom. Many of my students were frequently asking if they could borrow a pen, and I knew that I wasn’t the only one amongst my colleagues who regularly grabbed a pack of pens with my weekly groceries to supply to the kids.
I reached out to Helping Hands North Shore who were able to generate enough donations for me to provide nearly 100 students at my school with a basic stationery kit, and when I had run out of students to give stationery to I contacted other schools in the area. Knowing the problem was widespread, I looked for ways to do more. A timely conversation with my friend Lauren McCormack Sundstrom, who was looking for a way to give back to the community but was struggling to find something that was compatible with having a young baby, led to the launch of “Got a Pen?”
Our immediate aim is to reach students across Sydney, with aspirations to go nationwide.
Since launching in January 2016, “Got A Pen?” has distributed over 1000 packs to disadvantaged Sydney students, and there is much more work to be done. We estimate that there are potentially tens of thousands of students who need basic stationery supplies. “Got A Pen?” is now collecting donations of new (not used) blue, black or red pens, pencils, pencil cases, rulers, scissors, pencil sharpeners, erasers, highlighters, glue sticks, coloured pencils, as well as scientific calculators and geometry sets.
We all like to think that all of the students in our kid’s class have access to the basics- but that isn’t always the case. Wouldn’t you like to live in a community where all kids are able to access the educational opportunities available to them? Socioeconomic disadvantage has a significant negative impact on a child’s educational outcomes. While it doesn’t solve the issue of systemic inequality, basic stationery to call their very own goes at least some of the way towards closing the gap for these students, and in a nation as prosperous as ours it should be a given.
Donations can be made by
To stay up-to-date, ‘like’ the Got A Pen? Facebook page.