Students at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) are to be eligible for a share of a new £100,000 'digital poverty' package announced on Wednesday (April 21).

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said he hoped the money would help address digital poverty, such as poor rural connectivity.

Almost 1,700 students will each receive the £60 payment to help address data costs incurred through remote learning during the pandemic.

Digital poverty

Making the announcement Minister Poots said: “Since the start of the pandemic CAFRE has provided remote training and education for its students.

"I am very aware that all of them have experienced significant disruption during this time and have had to deal with the challenges associated with online learning.

“Furthermore, many of our CAFRE students come from rural areas where it can be difficult and expensive to access online programmes. I strongly believe digital poverty should not be a barrier to learning and so am delighted to announce this additional support which will help address that challenge.

“CAFRE has a well-deserved reputation as the leading provider of professional and technical agri-food sector qualifications in Northern Ireland and is celebrated throughout the wider agri-food industry for turning out highly-skilled graduates who are job ready.

"It is therefore vitally important that we continue to support our students in their education and training and recognise their future contribution to Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector,” added Minister Poots.

The decision mirrors a recent announcement by Economy Minister Diane Dodds that a one-off payment of £60 will be made to eligible full-time and part-time students in further education colleges in Northern Ireland.

The Digital Poverty payments will be processed by CAFRE and will be issued to full and part-time students.

Students of further and higher education courses based at CAFRE's campuses at Greenmount, in Antrim, Loughry, in Cookstown and at Enniskillen will all be eligible.