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The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has received $10 million from the JMMB-Joan Duncan Foundation for the ‘One Laptop or Tablet Per Child’ Initiative, which aims to provide needy students with the requisite tools to function in the teaching and learning environment.

A symbolic cheque was presented to Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, by Foundation Chair, Patricia Duncan Sutherland; and Board Member, Gifford Rankine, during a ceremony at JMMB’s Corporate Office in New Kingston on Tuesday (November 3).

Mrs. Williams said the Foundation’s gesture will serve to bolster the Ministry’s efforts in ensuring that targeted children across Jamaica “have a device in their hands, so that we can begin to close the digital divide”.

She pointed out that the Ministry and Government are taking the necessary steps to ensure that technology is infused in the teaching and learning experience inside and outside of the classroom, emphasising that “the ultimate goal is that we see improved outcomes from our education sector… and that we move our people along towards Jamaica becoming a digital society”.

In this regard, Mrs. Williams said the initiative and stakeholder support are indicative “of us beginning that digital journey”.

“We have to ensure that the 10-year-old [children] today are enabled to become digitally literate and move them from being digitally literate to being digitally fluent, so that when they become [adults], they are entering the workforce at a much higher level of competence and knowledge about the digital society,” she added, while expressing gratitude to the JMMB-Joan Duncan Foundation.

For her part, Mrs. Duncan Sutherland said the Foundation’s gesture is in keeping with the entity’s desire to “be a part of the solution” to make Jamaica’s children digitally literate and ready for the world.

She said this thrust is pertinent, particularly in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has significantly impacted the manner in which activities are undertaken.

Mrs. Duncan Sutherland pointed out that “one big positive” emerging from COVID-19 is that “it is forcing us to move in the direction of making our children digitally ready for the world”.

The ‘One Laptop or One Tablet Per Child’ Initiative, which was launched on October 29, is designed to promote inclusivity in the education sector by providing needy children with equitable access to information and communications technology and the requisite supporting tools.

The Government is currently providing an estimated 148,000 students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) with devices.

However, an additional estimated 100,000 students still require laptops or tablets to effectively participate in electronic learning. These youngsters are not on PATH, but are considered needy and vulnerable.

The profiles of the targeted beneficiaries are 600 special needs students, 94,900 students (not on PATH), and 4,500 students in State care/homes. The estimated cost to provide laptops and tablets is $4.5 billion.

Since the initiative’s launch several key stakeholders and interests have either made donations or pledges.

They include the NCB Foundation, which donated $50 million; the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), which pledged $1 million; and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President and JMMB Chief Executive Officer, Keith Duncan, who committed $1 million.

The NCB Foundation is also supporting the PSOJ, a pivotal partner in lobbying and piloting private-sector stakeholder input, by developing a donation portal to facilitate corporate and individual donations locally and globally.

Other participating stakeholders include the Sandals Foundation, Seprod Foundation, and Guardian Life Limited and the Guardian Group Foundation.

The Ministry of Education has advised that persons interested in making monetary donations may do so via the Jamaica Stock Exchange at www.jamaicastockex.com, and click on ‘One Laptop or Tablet Per Child Initiative’.

Additionally, the Ministry says overseas donors sending devices should use the Guidelines for Donating through the National Education Trust (NET).

This, it adds, will ensure that waivers are applied once the devices arrive in Jamaica. The Guidelines can be viewed at http://www.net.org.jm/resource.

Local donors providing devices can present same to NET.

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