KINGSTON — Jamaica's Educational institutions are to benefit from low-cost refurbished computers, distributed by a technology centre established by the Camara Jamaica Foundation Limited at the Penwood High School, Kingston.
Officially opened Thursday August 18 at a ceremony on the school grounds, the centre will be a hub for the distribution, refurbishing and maintenance of recycled computers provided by the Foundation's parent company, Camara International, a charitable organisation based in Ireland.
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, who was on hand to cut the ribbon and unveil a sign signifying the official opening of the centre, told JIS News that he was very impressed with what he saw.
“It's a dream come true actually,” the Minister said, adding that he was pleased with the speedy execution of the centre, which was completed in less than six months.
He said he was also delighted that the project incorporated the National Service Corps component of the Ministry’s Career Advancement Programme (CAP), which participants are trained in the maintenance and refurbishment of computers.
CAP aims at ensuring that students leaving secondary schools are literate and numerate, and have some form of technical and vocational qualification for post-secondary study or work. The programme seeks to stem the problem of youth being unattached because of inadequate education and skills.
“When we saw the proposal regarding the Camara Foundation, I was very excited because, right there was a solution. We have young people whom we would want to train in the practical skill of computer maintenance and refurbishing,” he said.
The Minister noted that unattached youths in the programme, which teaches self discovery, self discipline, self worth and values, will be better able to function in various areas of society and will become engaged in other meaningful activities. He also expressed his desire to see the project replicated in other schools and communities.
Principal of the school, Austin Burrell, also endorsed the initiative, noting that it marked “a seminal moment” in the history of Penwood High School. He vowed that the school will capitalise on the opportunities afforded, “and will show the world how astute and technologically savvy our young people can become, when they are given the opportunity for training and development."
Under the project, Camara Jamaica, provides training in computer repairs and refurbishing for mainly CAP participants who provide the necessary staffing to process the computers that are distributed to educational institutions. They will also receive certification in computer repairs. Teachers, who receive the refurbished computers are also trained to use them as tools to enhance curriculum delivery.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Foundation, Karl Gaynor, said that the Technology Centre, previously a drama room was completed in May and, by the end of the month, had received the first order of 600 computers from Ireland.
He said that the following month over 70 volunteers, who are currently partaking in a training workshop, were recruited. By July, computers were delivered to the initiative’s first customers, the Jamaica Foundation for Life Long Learning (JFLL), whose teachers have also received training under the project.
“So far we have trained almost 40 teachers for JFLL, we have delivered 179 desk top computers and 34 lap tops, “ he noted, adding that volunteers are refurbishing close to 400 machines, about half of which are completed and ready for distribution.
CEO of Camara International, Cormac Lynch, who lauded the project as a “truly Jamaican initiative,” said the decision was made to set up the centre in Jamaica, because of the leadership shown by the Ministry of Education and the Digicel Foundation, who were convincing that whatever programme they started in Jamaica would have a huge impact on the country.
He also praised the Mr. Holness for being passionate about the project, and believing in it from its inception.
According to Chairperson of the Digicel Foundation, Lisa Lewis, under the Foundation's Matching Concept Programme, it will match the first 100 orders for computers from the Camara Jamaica Foundation and, as of April 1 next year, will match the first 500 computers.
A volunteer-driven entity, Camara International, whose mission is to use technology to deliver and improve education throughout the world,has already set up e-learning centres in about 1,000 schools in Africa and Ireland.
The entity receives used computers from Irish companies and individuals, and refurbish and load them with educational software. Camara also provides computer training and educational multimedia materials for use by teachers and children.
The goal of the local arm is to provide over 10,000 computers a year to educational facilities, which will be sold to the schools at a minimal cost to recover overhead expenses such as training. The Camara Jamaica Foundation was incorporated in December 2010.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter