GraceKennedy Limited (GK), through its Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, today (September 21) donated 210 tablets and laptops valued at approximately $5.2 million, to 10 schools and six of the company’s homework centres in Kingston.
The initiative, which is dubbed ‘Tools for Schools’, is aimed at equipping Jamaican teachers and students with computer technology to facilitate online education.
The Foundation partnered with Worldwide Technology to purchase the devices, which included Alcatel seven- and 10-inch tablets.
The tablets, which come with a memory card, thumb drive, tablet case, keyboard, as well a sim card slot to facilitate connectivity via data plan, will be handed over to the students, while the teachers will receive the laptops and accompanying accessories, such as a laptop bag, thumb drive and wireless mouse.
Group Chief Executive Officer of GK, Senator the Hon. Don Wehby, during his address at the virtual ceremony said that GraceKennedy has had a long passion for education and believes that education should be a right and not a privilege.
“GK has long recognised the importance of bridging the technological gap in Jamaica and we made a commitment, even before the onset of COVID-19, to provide much-needed support to our schools through the donation of laptops and tablets,” he said.
According to Senator Wehby, the programme started in January with the donation of 10 tablets to Majesty Gardens Infant School in Kingston, where he started his educational journey years ago.
“This donation represents the first of its kind, and we look forward to providing more support to online education in the coming months,” he said.
Mr. Wehby noted that technology has made the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) manageable for many, as it has provided them with the ability to meet virtually and to stay in touch.
However, he said that while learning and working from home has been a simple adjustment for some, for others, including many students, access to computers and other devices is having grave consequences.
Senator Wehby pointed to a recent study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which found that 34 per cent of Jamaican households do not have access to a device that can be used exclusively for online learning.
“Over the years, I have witnessed the rise of online learning and I am committed to ensuring that no child gets left behind,” he added.
Two principals from two of the schools that benefited expressed profound appreciation and thanks to GK for its support.
Principal of St. George’s College, Margaret Campbell, said the school was in the process of seeking tablets with sim card slots for some of its students who may not have access to the Internet, when the company came to their rescue.
“Words cannot describe, but this is a significant dent in our reaching out for the students that need it and I want to thank you for providing them with that access,” she said.
For her part, Principal of Calabar Infant, Primary and Junior High, Josette Leslie, said: “Cyberworld is a new space that we must learn to navigate in this new normal, and we thank GK for providing us with this additional boost to technology…with laptops and tablets, which will go a far way in helping our children with access in this new virtual world.”
The other recipients are Calabar Infant and Primary, St. Michael’s Infant and Primary, Dupont Primary, Holy Family Primary, Majesty Gardens Infant, Yallahs High, Foga Road High, Maldon High and Spot Valley High.