The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has received 534 tablets for students with special needs from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), under the ‘One Laptop or Tablet Per Child’ initiative.
The tablets, valued at US$100,000, are aimed at providing the beneficiaries with greater access to online learning. The first batch of more than 200 devices has already been delivered to children.
Education Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, who officially accepted the devices during a ceremony at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle location in Kingston on Monday (November 30), said that the donation supports the Government’s drive to facilitate online learning through the provision of tablets to needy students across the island.
“UNICEF has been a partner with Jamaica for a very long time and we appreciate the knowledge that you bring [and] the projects that you have initiated. I’m sure when you look back over the years, you would have seen the impact that UNICEF has made, in particular in the education sector in Jamaica,” she noted.
Mrs. Williams said it is important that students with special needs are enabled with devices to access the online world, as technology will continue to be a permanent part of the education sector.
“Yes, we were forced into this by the coronavirus (COVID-19) but it goes well beyond COVID. It is our hope and dream that technology will continue to enrich the teaching and learning experience in our schools and so I can’t thank you enough for your focus on the education sector. but more importantly, for the special effort on our special needs students across our schools,” she noted.
UNICEF Jamaica Country Representative, Mariko Kagoshima, said that the organisation is happy to provide support for special needs children during COVID-19.
She said that the virus has negatively impacted education across Latin America and the Caribbean, with data showing that with more than eight months into the pandemic, approximately 137 million children are out of school, which represents 97 per cent of children in the region.
“Jamaica in this COVID crisis has done extremely well from my point of view because of the strong drive to allow children to access education through digital education. but you also have been very creative using television and radio. and then there are tremendous teachers who are going around,” she noted.
Ms. Kagoshima said that UNICEF has also partnered with the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) in training teachers on how to deliver distance education.
She reiterated her organisation’s commitment to partnerships, which will enable the country to build back stronger.
Assistant Chief Education Officer, Special Education Unit, Dr. Sharon Anderson Morgan, in expressing gratitude to UNCEF, noted that the devices donated represent assistive aids for the students.
“For example, students who are blind or visually inspired, when they have a device like this, they can have screen readers to read to them. We can install special fonts for students who have dyslexia… it makes accommodation and modification so much easier,” she said.
Dr. Anderson Morgan said that the donation is also timely as the county observes Disability Awareness Week and International Day for Persons with Disabilities on Thursday (December 3).
The One Laptop or Tablet per Child Initiative is designed to promote inclusivity in the education sector. It aims to provide needy students with the requisite tools to function in the online teaching and learning environment.