Affordable lunches and distance-learning support: how Prague is helping families during COVID

Newly launched programs include a technical hotline for computer issues, distribution of spare laptops, and an interactive restaurant map.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 09.11.2020 14:28 (updated on 17.11.2020)

Prague City Hall is launching three projects to help families. One project will help people find restaurants that offer affordable lunches for children and seniors. The other two are focused on technology. Parents struggling with new technologies for distance learning can get assistance, and the other will provide used computers or laptops to some families.

City Hall has launched a website with a map that shows parents where they can obtain affordable lunches for children (seniors can use the map, too). Interested restaurants can also still apply for the project. The map provides contact information and addresses of participating eateries, and specifies whether they provide delivery or just take-away service.

Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague) initiated the launch of a lunch project for schoolchildren and seniors at an affordable price. Parents have told city officials that one of the complications they now face is providing daily lunches for children.

“We want to offer parents who, due to the nature of their job, go to work regularly or have to work at the home office all day, another alternative to providing lunch for their children. In addition to helping families with children, we want to enable seniors to get meals in their immediate vicinity. Therefore, in addition to a children's lunch for 60 CZK without VAT, the participating restaurants should also provide lunch for seniors for 90 CZK without VAT,” Hlubuček said.

"We see this as an opportunity for restaurants that have dramatically lost customers and are limited to dispensing windows to bridge the period of coronavirus restrictions and gain a new group of customers,” Hlubuček said. “There are thousands of restaurants in Prague and we want to involve all those to whom the idea makes sense in these difficult times.”

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The basic precondition for being included in the project is setting a uniform price for lunch, which will not be significantly higher than parents normally pay in school cafeterias while at the same time providing lunches of appropriate quality.

Restaurants will be able to register for the project via an online registration form. Parents and restaurateurs will then find all the necessary information on the same website.

Prague has set up a technical assistance hotline for teachers and pupils to facilitate online teaching.

Prague City Hall in cooperation with Prague homes for children and youth has responded to the growing technical problems that often complicate distance education for children. It has created a website that both teachers and students can use to request technical assistance. The website is in the Czech language, though assistance can be offered in English when possible.

“Last week I contacted Libor Bezděk, director of the Prague’s homes for children and youth, with the intention of technically helping to provide distance learning in schools and create a team of professional IT staff from Prague children's and youth homes who would solve technical problems using a simple form. Recently, it has often happened that experts in schools are so overwhelmed solving ongoing problems that at the moment all help is welcome,” City Councilor Vít Šimral (Pirates), responsible for education, said.

Experts are available for several communication platforms — Google Classroom, MS Teams and Zoom. They are ready to solve problems concerning a functional connection to conference video calls by phone or by means of a simple electronic form as quickly as possible. Just enter your request on the website.

“If you do not know how to deal with online teaching, or if you suddenly do not see your classmates or teachers, the camera or microphone stops going, send in the form and our team of IT experts from Prague’s children's and youth homes will try to help as soon as possible,” Bezděk said.

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Prague will help some families with a lack of computers so schoolchildren will not have to share with their parents.

The city continues its efforts to equip students and their families with computers so that they can participate in distance learning. The municipal companies Pražská plynárenská and PRE will provide schoolchildren with approximately 70 units. Other companies are being approached by the City Council.

"The coronavirus epidemic has hit us unprepared. The necessary government measures affect everyone, regardless of gender, age or social status. That is why it is more important than ever to help each other at this time. So we are trying to help schoolchildren and their families that lack of computer technology.

The situation is extraordinary and few people have computers at home for all members of the household, so we are trying to contact city companies to see if they do not have superfluous equipment that could serve the needy,” City Councilor Jan Chabr (Pirates) said.

Families with more children find themselves in a situation where parents cannot work while children study at the same time due to lacking a laptop for everyone.

The city has asked municipal companies with discarded computers to provide them to municipal school department. “It's only a small step, but even in the so-called lockdown we have to think about the future. And the education of the youngest generation is a basic precondition for any future,” Chabr said.