As the Government works to get more technology in the hands of students to facilitate their continued education online, the private sector locally and overseas has responded well to the call for assistance, and has, so far, provided 15 per cent of the 100,000 additional devices required for students in need.
Private individuals and organisations were invited to make donations to meet this demand, under the ‘One Laptop or Tablet per Child’ initiative, and as at April 20, 2021, 14,560 tablets and 715 laptops have been galvanised under this initiative, which is being managed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information through the National Education Trust Ltd. (NET).
The objective is to provide 70,000 tablets and 30,000 laptops at an estimated cost of J$4.5 billion. To date, the private sector has contributed J$130 million and US$359,000 in cash, some of which has already been used to purchase devices.
The initiative was launched in October last year with the aim to provide needy students with the necessary tools to function in the online teaching and learning environment. The targeted beneficiaries are special needs students, needy students who are not part of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), and students in State care.
In her address at the virtual launch of the initiative, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Fayval Williams, said the partnership between the Government and the private sector can go a far way in closing the digital divide in Jamaica.
“Eliminating that divide begins by the Government and the private sector coming together to put a laptop or a tablet in the hands of every Jamaican child, especially those families near or below the poverty level, whether they are in rural Jamaica or in our urban centres,” the Minister said.
Director, Donor and Partnership Management at the NET, Latoya Harris, tells JIS News that the private sector has been “very receptive to the initiative both here and in the United States, based on contacts made by Jamaica’s Consul General to New York, [Alsion Roach Wilson]”.
From the very launch, several private-sector entities responded immediately, pledging funds, including personal funds, to support the cause, amounting to more than J$60 million. These are the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA); the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), through which the National Commercial Bank (NCB) Foundation and the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation have provided support.
Of note, President of the PSOJ, Keith Duncan, who along with his wife personally pledged $1 million towards the initiative, encouraged every member of the PSOJ to help the Ministry meet its demand by donating towards the purchase of the devices.
Other participating stakeholders include Sandals Foundation, Seprod Foundation and the Guardian Life Limited and Guardian Group Foundation.
Ms. Harris says the Government is grateful for the support received thus far and “we continue to push ahead and engage stakeholders and continue the appeal”.
She notes that locally the other donors or strategic partners include Jamaica Social Stock Exchange, Seprod/Musson Foundation, Huawei, Cornerstone Jamaica, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sean Paul Foundation, Stone Plus Ltd, Kemtek Development and Construction Limited, Restaurants of Jamaica, Master Card, St. James Municipal Corporation, and Berger Paint’s ANSA McAL Foundation.
“Diaspora and/or school alumnae groups which stand out are York Castle High Past Students’ Association, Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (UJAA), Wolmer’s Trust, Mount Alvernia High Past Students’ Association and Positive Jamaica Foundation,” she says.
Other contributors include the Issa Foundation and Tarrant High School Past Students’ Association.
Ms. Harris says the overseas donors for the ‘One Laptop or Tablet per Child’ Initiative are “only but a fraction of the many organisations and persons who form part of the Consul General’s network of donors”.
These include The Fisher Family Foundation; the Arthur and Helen Baer Charitable Foundation; Brigid Donnelly and Greg Johnson from Oppenheimer; Adam Groothuis; Raymond Goulbourne of BET Network; Monroe College, New York; Bluefields Environmental Protection Association; Honorary Consul, Joy Stephenson-Laws; Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for Moody’s Corporation and President of the Moody’s Foundation, Arlene Isaacs-Lowe; Dr. Rudolph C. Willis; Jamaica National Money Services; Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS); Phillip Feurtado of Feurtado Shipping; and Microsoft.
Persons interested in making monetary donations may do so through the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange at jamaicastockex.com and click ‘One Laptop or Tablet per Child Initiative’.
For overseas donors sending devices, they should use the Guidelines for Donating through NET. This will ensure that waivers are applied once the devices arrive in Jamaica. The Guidelines can be reviewed at http://www.net.org.jm/resource.
Local donors providing devices can present them to NET.
For more information on the project, persons may call the NET at 876-967-9007 or 876-967-7962.