Within the next two months, 25,000 public school teachers will benefit from the roll-out of the Tablets for Teachers Programme.
The tablet computers will be for personal use as well as to assist the educators in delivering content and lessons in a virtual environment, especially since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has transformed the teaching/learning atmosphere in Jamaica and worldwide.
A sum of $700 million was symbolically handed over to e-Learning Jamaica by the Universal Service Fund (USF) for the procurement of the devices, during a ceremony at PCJ Auditorium, in New Kingston on, May 7.
The Tablets for Teachers Programme is part of an agreement between the Government and the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) to provide each teacher in public schools with a 10-inch tablet computer as part of their compensation package.
Speaking at the official handing over ceremony, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Fayval Williams, informed that distribution of the devices has already commenced.
Mrs. Williams noted that the Government is strengthening efforts to equip teachers and students with digital skills which will foster innovation. She added that this is integral as COVID-19 has shifted the teaching and learning experience and has pushed more teaching and learning exercises online.
“The world as we know it has changed; therefore the time has come for us to build the capacity of all the people. We are making the right moves to increase Information Communication Technology (ICT) in schools and this financial support to the Tablets to Teachers project is testament,” she said.
Mrs. Williams argued that access to the internet should be a right of all Jamaicans, in much the same way as other utilities, such as water and electricity, are delivered to homes.
Meanwhile, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge, said the distribution will assist in ensuring that the education system is not disrupted, although aspects of the teaching and learning environment has shifted.
“The gift of a tablet is an essential part of the learning tool,” the State Minister said.
For his part, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, said the Government remains committed to delivering promises made.
He argued that the devices are integral in the Government’s drive to becoming a digital society, while enabling connectivity.
“The timing of the delivery of these tablets could not be better, in that they will enable teachers to accelerate our advancement in this new sort of world,” the Minister said.
In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer, Universal Service Fund (USF), Daniel Dawes, said he is looking forward to the positive impact the devices will have in the virtual and physical classrooms.
“This disbursement is one more way to enable us to be producers rather than consumers,” he added.
Chief Executive Officer, e-Learning Jamaica, Keith Smith, said the Postal Corporation of Jamaica will assist with the distribution of the devices, adding that distribution should be completed over the next two months.
Chairperson of the Universal Service Fund, Dr. Gunjan ManSingh, said investment in education is an investment in the future.
The disbursement of tablets falls within the 11-year arrangement between the USF and eLearning Jamaica for the financing of projects that will see to the dissemination of tablet computers to students and teachers at the infant, primary and secondary levels.