JIS News

Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry Wilson has voiced her support for the levy on incoming international calls, which was announced by Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell yesterday (May 18).
The revenue to be earned from the charges, which is projected at $1 billion, will go toward the establishment of a Universal Service Fund, to finance the implementation of the national E-learning project.
Speaking at the press conference held at Minister Paulwell’s Trafalgar Road offices in Kingston, where the announcement was made, Mrs. Henry Wilson said the development held “potential for significant advances in the education system. Our goal is the attainment of equity in quality in the education system. It is one of the philosophical planks on which our system is built”.
She further emphasized that, “our objective is not just to have universal access in terms of secondary education but to have universal quality. At the moment, the quality is uneven and the deficits in the system have resulted in different levels of performance by different secondary institutions. Our aim is to ensure that all institutions are able to achieve that objective of a globally competitive standard”.
Attaining this goal, she said, meant that students must have the ability to learn as is, where is and that there should be an evenness in the standards. The Minister noted that since 1992, there have been two significant interventions in the education system through phases I and II of the Reform of Secondary Education Programme (ROSE).
“Even though we have not yet achieved universal secondary access, and 2006 is set as the benchmark date for the attainment of that, we have attempted to infuse quality throughout the system,” she said, adding, “this has not always been possible as there are institutions that have had difficulty in terms of availability of teaching and learning support (and) differentials in terms of the input”.
Through the E-learning project, the Education Minister said, interventions would be made at grades 7-11 dealing with in the first instance, the core curriculum, which comprises six subjects, which every school was mandated to do, regardless of the type of institution.
“Through the E-learning project, 20 schools will have the benefit of a pilot where informative material and e-learning mechanisms will be used in those schools. There will be dedicated cable lines for some subjects as well as dedicated cable lines for the E-learning project in and of itself. They should be available both in terms of electronic devices as well as some real time transmissions,” Mrs. Henry Wilson told the press conference.
A student assessment system and a student examination system will also be developed with a major benefit of this being training for teachers. Meanwhile, Craig McBurnett, Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Digital, which is one of the local carriers providing support, commended the unanimity amongst the local industry players on the importance of the Fund.
“All industries have their version of competition, but when it comes to education, the importance of education, access to education and quality of education, there is no greater unifying theme,” he said.
Mr. McBurnett added, “this is but the first step of a very long process. We are trying to make fundamental changes. We must be ever vigilant about how the money is collected and dispensed, the programmes that we use, and even the technology that we use. We will need all of Jamaica’s participation to really bring the true value of this effort to fruition”. The other two providers lending their support to the effort are Cable and Wireless Jamaica and Digicel.
Effective June 1, all telecommunications carriers will pay a service charge levy of US$0.03 per minute on all incoming international minutes for termination on fixed wired networks, and US$0.02 on all incoming international minutes for termination on cellular networks.
The payments will be made by all licence holders terminating minutes into the island. This is as a result of the Government of Jamaica having signed an order for the imposition of a levy on incoming international telephone calls, pursuant to sections 38 and 39 of the Telecommunications Act (2000), which makes provision for the imposition of universal service charge to a maximum of five per cent of revenues for the establishment of a fund to provide subsidized access to the telecommunication services. This is under an agreed universal service programme, geared toward the achievement of defined national developmental objectives.
A special purpose company to be known as the Universal Service Fund Company has been established to collect, manage, and disburse the funds.
The core functions and mandate of the company will be: to collect the universal telecommunications services obligations levy from telecommunications companies; analyse projects of a universal service nature and make recommendations to Cabinet for approval; disburse funds for the implementation of approved initiatives; and monitor implementation of projects and account for funds collected and disbursed.

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