JIS News

The young children, ages 3 to 6, at the St. Auburn Basic School in Patrick City, Kingston all respond remarkably to the computer. “I always wondered why some of the students cried, while others were happy, when we have computer instruction,” Principal, Audrey Grant-Clue shares with JIS News. “I recently found out that it was because of the mouse. They are afraid to touch it because they think it is a real-life mouse,” she explains.
Since the introduction of three computers and a printer, courtesy of the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund nearly seven months ago, the students have been exploring the technology with their teachers.
The introduction of computers in schools is designed to enhance student learning by the greater use of information and communications technology (ICT), as Jamaica prepares its human capital for life in the national and global communities.
When those students who are terrified of the mouse see others bravely clamour to manipulate it, they too eventually warm to the idea of holding the mouse in order to experience the joys of moving from stage to stage in their Mathematics or Reading exercise.
As for the teachers at the 26 year-old institution, there are smiles all around as they express their appreciation and enthusiasm for the equipment and work centres, which have not only enhanced the teaching process, but have spurred them on to acquire the requisite skills in ICT.
Prior to the introduction of the computers, Mrs. Grant-Clue along with another teacher, were the only persons on staff who were equipped with computer knowledge and skills. Most of the staff has since gained computer competency.
In recounting the process involved in securing the computers and work centres, as well as reading and mathematics software for St. Auburn Basic School, Mrs. Grant-Clue says she was introduced to the work of CHASE by a colleague, who gave her information on the assistance provided by the Fund to early childhood institutions.
“Immediately I wrote them a letter, got an application form, which I filled out and sent in. After much dialogue, I produced all documents required and they granted us our request,” she says. This all occurred within a six-month period.
Mrs. Grant-Clue has all right to be pleased, because she is among a number of principals who have introduced computer-based learning in early childhood institutions.
This trend is currently reflected in the burgeoning number of applications submitted to the CHASE Fund from early childhood institutions for computers and printers.
To ensure that every child has access to the technology, they are arranged in groups. “We have achieved a lot so far by organising the children in groups,” the Principal explains. “What we did last term was to allow the students to manipulate the computer, get familiar with the names of the parts of the computer and to access the educational programmes,” she adds.
This term the computer classes are more streamlined. At the end of the term, each child will receive a certificate of participation, and also at the end of each lesson on the software, so that parents will see what their children have achieved.
Speaking of the parents, Mrs. Grant-Clue says that most of them are very pleased with the introduction of the computer classes. She informs that many parents, savvy about the benefits of computer training from an early age, enquire about computer classes at the outset of enrolment.
Enrolment at the school has grown from 159 in the previous term to 180 students this Christmas term. However, the Principal is cautious about attributing the increase to the presence of the computers. “I cannot definitively attribute the increase in enrolment to the introduction of the computers just yet.we will have to wait and see,” she says.
Nevertheless, the future is bright for the students at the St. Auburn Basic school, especially for the 5 year olds, who will be more advanced when going on to Primary school. According to the Principal, they would have had access to a variety of stimulating programmes available on the computer as well as possess computer skills.
“The computer programmes assist immeasurably with the school work, and help in the reinforcement of curriculum,” Mrs. Grant-Clue explains.
The CHASE Fund was established in November 2002 and started operation in January 2003. It was set up as a company to receive, distribute, administer and manage the monetary contributions from the lottery companies. The areas of focus are sports development, early childhood education, health, arts and culture.To date, the Fund has allotted $136 million to the early childhood education sector.

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