CHASE Fund provides 2,000 tablets for early childhood students
Over 2,000 students will benefit from tablet computers being donated by the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund to early childhood institutions across Jamaica to facilitate virtual learning.
Two thousand devices, valued at $50 million, will be distributed to several schools between May and August.
The schools include: Allman Town Infant School in Kingston; Evelyn Mitchell Infant School in Clarendon; Arcadia Primary and Infant School in St Thomas; Boundbrook Infant School in Portland; Naggo Head Infant School in St Catherine; and Bethabara Infant School in Manchester.
The project complements the CHASE Fund’s SMART Boards programme, designed to enable virtual/distant learning in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CHASE Technology Enhancement Programme (SMART Boards in Infant Schools), which began in 2019, supplements the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information’s Tablets in Schools initiative.
CHASE Fund project manager, Latoya Aquart-Foster, said the organisation recognises the pandemic’s devastating impact on families not having sufficient access to electronic devices.
“Many children either do not have access or must share access with older siblings. Nationally, students who are doing exams are given priority, so there is a major gap within the early childhood sector. So, since that age group is within our mandate under education - specifically early childhood education - we took the opportunity to provide devices for children in that age cohort,” she explained.
According to Aquart-Foster, the CHASE Fund wants to reduce the learning gap emerging as a result of the pandemic.
“It is a critical stage as quite a bit of development takes places at that age cohort of four-six years old, and we want to ensure that they were still being engaged and reached. Therefore, we saw the need to implement this project,” she added.
Aquart-Foster said the CHASE Fund remains committed to providing solutions tailored to meeting the needs of the local education system.
“The gap that exists between technology and other resources is continuously being pursued in [the] hope of providing the best environment for children to learn and thrive. The provision of infrastructure, training, smart boards and, more recently, tablets and printers, is always a response to issues facing the sector and the future outcomes being sought,” she said.
The Early Childhood Commission (ECC) assisted with the undertaking by providing the CHASE Fund with a list of recommended schools.
“The ECC is equipped with a database that captures ongoing and current information on the sector; so they were in a position to provide recommendations, based on a needs assessment,” Aquart-Foster said.
“Whenever we are looking at the sector and trying to identify the areas of most need or the areas that we would see the biggest impact, we consult with the ECC,” she said.
This, she further stated, is “because they have a panoramic view of the sector and they know where the deficiencies are and where the needs are greatest”.