More than fourteen hundred students across the island will be able to get online for classes and take advantage of distance learning instructions following the donation of digital tablets from the Sandals Foundation.
The island’s numbers form part of more than two thousand (2,000) tablets which have been sourced to support the Caribbean’s online learning needs following the successful execution of the organisation’s Lessons Alive social media fundraising campaign.
In Jamaica, the devices were made possible through designated donations from Sandals Resorts International, major partners including Digicel Foundation, Rainforest Seafood, Fontana, Grab N Go, Fraser Fontaine and Kong Insurance, Billy Craig Insurance Brokers, 4Ys Foundation, and CPJ, and an incredible network of Sandals and Beaches Resorts guests.
The devices will support vulnerable students at more than forty (40) schools across the parishes of St. James, St. Ann, St. Mary, Hanover and Westmoreland. All have been equipped with the Ministry of Education Youth and Information’s e-Resource app as well as Digicel sim cards bearing two months data plan.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation says the initiative is part of the organisation’s sustainable investment in the region’s education sector.
“It was very important for us to help make the transition to online learning as easy as possible. The digital transformation within our education system is inevitable as more of our lives’ activities are being done online. We must ensure our children are digitally literate and there is equitable access to the technological tools so they can continue their learning,” Clarke says.
On Friday, December 4, twenty-eight (28) tablets were delivered to the Ocho Rios Primary School to serve grade six students, who are just above the PATH threshold but whose needs were assessed and determined high priority by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
Suzette Barnes-Wilson, Principal of Ocho Rios Primary, welcomed the donation, sharing the unique experience of students who lack devices.
“Some of the students who are without devices often gather under a tree or at shop and share the use of one device that a particular child may have. This of course puts a lot of students at a disadvantage because these students are at different age levels but of course do not have devices of their own,” said Principal Barnes-Wilson.
The donation, Mrs. Barnes-Wilson says, “Will help empower so many of our students to navigate and be in classes on time whilst their teachers are online. They will be able to complete their assignments on time and not be left behind.”
And Charmaine Daniels, Chief Executive Officer at Digicel Foundation shared the importance of ensuring students are connected online as they study from home.
“So many of our students are struggling with connectivity and it’s important that we enable them with the right resources to ensure that no one is left behind. This partnership to provide both devices and access to data services is crucial to ensuring that our students are able to continue their education from home. We’re grateful to the Sandals Foundation for partnering with us and we look forward to maintaining this relationship as we work together to build Jamaica,” Daniels said.
In August, the Sandals Foundation launched the Lessons Alive social media campaign to help families across the Caribbean prepare for the new academic year and on October 5 expanded the reach of the campaign to target sourcing digital tablets to help with the growing remote learning needs.
The digital learning landscapes across the seven countries in which it operates - Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados and The Turks & Caicos Islands were all assessed and intervention provided as needed.