Gov’t to roll out $20,000 laptop vouchers soon
The Government is preparing to undertake an initiative whereby needy families who are not on the state welfare programme will be given $20,000 to purchase a tablet or go towards buying a laptop.
Registration for the programme began last December and the numbers are enough to begin a rollout, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams told a handover ceremony of 50 tablets at the John Mills Primary and Infant School in Kingston on Friday.
“Already about 18,000 would have registered and so we are going to start fulfilling that. Government is giving $20,000 to the family to be able to purchase a tablet or have it go towards purchasing a laptop and we are getting ready to begin issuing those vouchers, so that 36,000 families will be able to have at least one device in their home,” said Williams.
In addition, consistent with the goals of its ‘One Laptop or Tablet per Child Initiative’, the state is also preparing to provide laptops to high school students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education who are in grades 10-13.
“We do not want any of our children to be left behind. We always talk about the digital divide. It means that there are some students who have everything in terms of smartphone, laptop, tablet, connectivity and there are some students who do not have it,” Williams said, noting that in some cases, connectivity still remains a problem.
“We know that the connectivity is not where we want it to be, but the ministry has taken steps to ensure that more of our schools have connectivity. So in the event teachers don’t have the facility at home, they can come to their workplace, which is the school, and are able to use the online system.”
She went on to explain the options open to children who still do not have access to the online modality.
“If they don’t have online (access), they can using the audio/video approach which is about the lessons which we have on TV and we air on radio. If the students don’t have that, then they simply have to use their textbooks and worksheets, be in touch with their teachers to give the teachers the lessons that they would have completed and have the teacher return it and give new ones.”
Businessman Reece Kong of RMP and Associates Limited donated 50 tablets to the school he attended as a boy and spoke to the importance of such contribution, given the long-term impact that the pandemic is likely to have on the country.
“This challenge that we face threatens to disenfranchise an entire generation and whatever we can do as technology partners, my company and the rest of the technology partners in Jamaica stand ready to help,” he said.