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Students of Jose Marti Technical High School in St. Catherine are now benefiting from an upgraded computer laboratory, which has been equipped with 23 computers.Funding for the project, which cost some $2.2 million, was provided by Digicel Foundation and the HEART Trust/ NTA, through the Technical High School Development Project.
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Science and Technology (with Energy), Phillip Paulwell and Eleen Rankine, Administrator of Digicel Foundation, yesterday (May 16) cut the ribbon to officially open the centre and unveil a plaque naming the facility.
Digicel contributed some $1 million for the refurbishing and equipping of the laboratory and administrative room, which included the purchasing of desks and chairs, 25 of which were for the computer room; and the tiling of floors. The computers, along with the monitors, were provided by the HEART Trust/NTA.
Bringing greetings at the function, principal of Jose Marti Technical, Bevar Moodie, thanked the sponsors for transforming the typewriting room into a modern laboratory. He said that the students would benefit greatly from the use of the facility, especially the 40 students, who would this year, sit the Caribbean Examination Council’s (CXC) electronic document preparation and management examination.
The principal further pointed to plans to introduce one-year courses in word processing and desk top publishing to 280 grade eight students come September and to organize courses for members of the academic and auxiliary staff.
“By September 2006, there will be five functioning computer laboratories in this school, with three of them dedicated solely to the teaching of information technology. Therefore, we will be getting closer to that point when all of our students will be exposed to information technology,” he stated.
According to Mr. Moodie, the laboratory would be maintained through the payment of a small fee by students and by income generated from courses offered to adults. He informed that a security system and maintenance plan would be implemented to ensure the safety and care of the computers and accessories.
Minister Paulwell, in his address, said that the E-learning project would get underway during the next academic year.
According to the Minister, the government was trying to enhance the learning experience by using information technology in the teaching of subjects. “We are going to be using it to do everything in the classroom. Whether you’re talking about math, English, Spanish, we are going to be introducing IT (information technology). This project is going to see the installation of computers in all our secondary schools, over 200 of them .you are going to be entitled to your own computer laboratory with over 100 seats that will enable you to have full access to multi-media facilities,” he outlined.
He challenged the business community, including Digicel, to assist in making computers more accessible to consumers. He noted that the average person, even with the removal of duties and the general consumption tax (GCT), was still unable to acquire a computer.
“We want to see them virtually being given away as part of a package of services so that when the child leaves school with the access here, they will have hands-on access at home. That is when we can truly boast as being a knowledge-based society,” the Minister said.
Other speakers at the ceremony were Executive Director, Digicel Foundation, General Robert Neish and Project Manager and Head of Business at Jose Marti Technical, Hazel Hodelin-Laing.