From time to time during the 17-year history of Computers in Homes, schools have requested that we waive the requirement for families to have to pay the $50 contribution towards the cost of the programme. Historically, we have taken a firm line on this and insisted that families make this commitment for the following reasons:
- the principle underlying the concept of a family contribution is that people value things more if they have to pay for them (the ‘skin in the game’ principle);
- the $50 fee was set as a nominal amount in the year 2000 and has remained unchanged ever since;
- nationally, the family contribution comes to $75,000 each year and this income is a small but necessary part of the CIH budget;
- families who struggle to find a spare $50 have been encouraged to make a $5 payment each week during training; schools are usually happy to accept these payments;
- programmes like Manaiakalani that started in a decile 1a school have proven that even families in the lowest income communities can find money for technology when they see the value; Manaiakalani families typically pay $3.50 per week over 3 years to pay off a digital device for their children;
- most families quickly see the value in CIH – they often view it as an affordable way to procure a computer;
- families will incur other costs in joining the digital world, such as an internet connection; if families cannot afford $50, then we do need to think carefully about whether they will be able to afford other ongoing ‘digital’ costs.
That said, there have been exceptions. A recent one was the Kaikoura earthquake; the fee was waived for CIH families in training at the time. There have also been instances where schools have recognised specific situations of financial hardship and have procured other resources to cover the family fee for selected families; this is not unusual in most schools where Principals have a hardship fund to support families with camp fees or other discretionary expenses. In some areas, external funding from local Rotary groups or businesses have been used to contribute towards the family contribution.
So our position remains the same as for the last 17 years, i.e. all participating families must pay the $50, although at the discretion of the school, assistance can be provided from other resources (within the school or externally).
We are aware that most schools accept this approach, and will not allow the computer to be taken home until the $50 payment has been made. In exceptional cases of poverty (as assessed by the school), we have agreed from time to time to reduce the amount invoiced to the school, where efforts have been made to get a family to pay, but they have failed to do so.