Tue | Sep 28, 2021

St Catherine schools receive tablets

Published:Monday | March 1, 2021 | 12:13 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer

Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams has said the Government was committed to closing the digital divide affecting Jamaican students who have been forced to engage in online learning because of coronavirus restrictions.

Williams, speaking at a handover ceremony for 150 tablets to students of St Catherine High School and 30 tablets and one laptop to Homestead Primary School pupils at the St Catherine High grounds last Thursday, said this is being achieve through initiatives designed by her ministry.

“Part of the effort is to ensure that all our students across Jamaica have a learning device so that they are a part of the digital revolution that is guiding the world, which we would like to see here in Jamaica as well.

“Yes, we know that these devices have entertainment value to them, but this is not the main purpose, as we go through the pandemic, you will have an instrument to connect with your teachers through the vertical space,” Williams said.

She said that studies have shown that technology in education helps to accelerate learning and students to get better grades.

“We are therefore saying to the students who are recipient of these devices to keep and care them, use them well, and use them wisely,” Williams urged.

“We know that the devices are only one part of the puzzle, there are other parts that must come together to give the students that rich experience, it includes connectivity.”

ABSORB DATA COSTS

Williams informed that the ministry has taken steps to absorb the data cost for both teachers and students, so that when they are in virtual classes they don’t have to use up their data plans.

The initiative was developed to engage stakeholders, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, to assist with the provision of these devices.

Through the USAID-funded Local Partner Development scheme, 300 tablets and 10 laptops have been donated to the One Laptop or Tablet Per Child initiative

Homestead was allocated 30 tablets and one laptop, while St Catherine High School received 150 tablets from a pool of 1,200 acquired through the efforts of Jamaica’s Council General in New York, who reached out to members of the diaspora.

In addition to this, the Government purchased 40 tablets and distributed to PATH students in grades four, five and six in various schools, and, starting next week, those in high schools from grade 10 to 13 will receive remaining tablets.

The minister further disclosed that the Own Your Own Device programme announced in December, in which the Government pledged to give 36,000 needy families $20,000 to purchase a tablet or laptop is also ready to be rolled out.

“At this point we can begin to roll out this programme, where beneficiaries will receive e-vouchers to take to vendors and complete the transaction,’ the education minister said, adding that there is still room in the programme for 18,000 more students.

Principal of St Catherine High School Marlon Campbell said he is happy that this initiative is being led by the ministry and reaching so many Jamaicans in the diaspora.

“I am indeed pleased that Jamaicans who are not living here saw the need and responded favourably,” he said.