Education minister urges J’cans to partner on ‘One laptop or tablet per child’ initiative

By Horace Hines,

Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams is inviting Jamaicans to partner with the ‘One laptop or tablet per child’ initiative, which will be officially launched next Thursday.

“Next week Thursday we will be launching an initiative called, ‘One laptop or tablet per child’. We’re appealing to corporate Jamaica, to individuals, to the Diaspora, to our multinational partners, to come on board, sponsor a child, help us,” the education minister implored yesterday.

She said the initiative will be done through the National Education Trust.

“They are set up to accept donations, to properly account for those donations, and to ensure that they get to the correct school, the correct child. If you are a company that wants to donate and you want to select the school that you want to donate to, no problem; just let us know. If you have children in mind, if it’s a grade that you want to sponsor, not a problem; just let us know and we will ensure that it gets in the hands of the student and that we will give you proper record that that was done,” Williams said.

She expressed that the initial goal of the plan is to provide 100,000 devices to children.

“I am excited about that programme. I know that it will take us some time, because of the number of students that we have out there, but it’s an initiative that’s big and bold and audacious. But we first have to articulate it, allow persons to buy in to it and come on board, and I am sure that we will succeed… I have no doubt that we will get there,” she added.

Williams noted, too, that technology will continue to play an integral role in the education system, especially as a result of COVID-19.

“We are in a pandemic; we are not in normal times. We have to do things differently, we have to engage our students differently. We are on a path, a technology path that is irreversible. And I have always said, even if tomorrow morning all our children wake up and they are back in school, technology will remain a permanent part of the teaching and learning experience. We will continue to have technology in the hands of our students and in our classrooms as well. So our journey here is just beginning,” she said, adding that the nation’s aspirations for a digital society hinges on technology.

“It is a journey that we are on, and it requires all of us to be on it — parents, teachers, principals, the whole community, all of Jamaica. Because we talk about wanting Jamaica to be a digital society, this is where it starts.

“We have to get technology into the hands of our young people. If you think this is going to be temporary, think again. It is going to be irreversible. We are going to be moving further and further along,” she insisted.

The education minister was speaking yesterday at Glendevon Primary and Junior High School in Montego Bay, St James, at the handover of 62 tablets, which is part of Government’s distribution of 40,000 tablets to grades four, five and six students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.

Besides Glendevon Primary, the minister stopped at Barrett Town All-Age and John’s Hall All Age, where 19 and 70 tablets were distributed, respectively, under the programme.

“We are targeting grades four, five, and six in the primary schools, because those are the exam grades. It is important to us that these tablets get into the hands of students as quickly as possible, and if it seems we are in a hurry to do so, we actually are,” Williams said.

She also lauded ReadyTV for providing connectivity to 101 of the 235 schools identified by the Ministry of Education “that did not have any connectivity whatsoever”.

Glendevon Primary School is one of the beneficiaries.

“We are speaking with other providers to be able to connect the other schools as well,” the education minister said.

Main photo: Minister of Education Fayval Williams addresses the audience at Glendevon Primary and Junior High School in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday. (Photo courtesy: Alan Lewin)

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