A total of 887 students from nine primary schools in Western Kingston have been provided with tablet computers as the Government continues the distribution of devices under the Tablets in Schools programme.
During a ceremony at the Denham Town Primary School on Friday (Nov. 20), 118 tablets were handed over for students at the institution; 150 for students of St. Andrew Primary; 148 for St. Aloysius Primary; 120 for St. George’s Girls Primary; 100 for North Street Congregational; 100 for St. Anne’s Primary; 80 for Central Branch All-Age; 50 for St. Alban’s Primary and Infant; and 21 for Chetolah Mel Nathan Educational Centre.
The Government, through e-Learning Jamaica (e-LJam) began the distribution of 40,000 tablets to students on the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) on October 2.The devices are targeted at pupils in grades four to six.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Fayval Williams, in her address at the presentation ceremony, said that the initiative aims to assist the most vulnerable students to access lessons online during the pandemic.
She noted that other initiatives are being pursued to ensure that more students are provided with the tools necessary for learning.
These include: the purchase of 15,000 laptops for PATH students in grades 10 to 13; procurement of 16,000 tablets for PATH students in grades 7 to 9; the Own Your Own Device Incentive, through which the Government is assisting with the purchase of tablets or laptops for non-PATH students; and the ‘One Laptop or Tablet per Child’ initiative, which is a partnership with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) to equip students with the tools to access online education.
Mrs. Williams said that even when students return to the physical classrooms, they will still be using the devices to help with learning and research.
She noted that efforts continue to equip schools with internet access, while the Government works to improve the country’s broadband infrastructure.
“There were 235 schools across Jamaica that had no internet connectivity and we are (equipping them with) satellite technology and I know that within the last couple of weeks, 40 schools would have gotten their internet connectivity. We have 60 more to go in terms of the 100 that we targeted,” she shared.
She said that discussions are underway with vendors for connectivity at the other schools.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and Member of Parliament for Western Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, who attended the handing over ceremony, encouraged the students to take care of the devices, noting that they will go a far way in helping them in their studies.
He informed that a programme has been instituted in the constituency where teachers are being engaged as volunteers to assist students, who are in need of classroom attention.
“It has been going well so far and we hope to improve on it over the next couple of weeks going into next year,” he said.
Ministry of Education Regional Director for Region One, Dasmine Kennedy, for her part, encouraged the students to use the devices to investigate the world around them.
“Go to Japan, go to China and see some of the things they are doing there. Take your tablets and go on a virtual journey and come back and let us know the things that we are missing and what we can do best to ensure that we take this place (Jamaica) to where it ought to be,” she said.
Principal, Denham Town Primary School, Curdell Daley, expressed gratitude for the tablets, while Chief Executive Officer, e-Learning Jamaica (e-LJam), Keith Smith said that the devices are critical in supporting virtual learning at this time.