Wed | Oct 21, 2020

4,000 special-needs students to get learning devices

Published:Saturday | October 17, 2020 | 12:12 AMChristopher Thomas – Gleaner Writer
Education Minister Fayval Williams (second right) presents a tablet to Chance Robinson (centre), a grade five student of the Barrett Town Primary School in St James, during a ceremony where tablets were presented to Barrett Town Primary School and John’s
Education Minister Fayval Williams (second right) presents a tablet to Chance Robinson (centre), a grade five student of the Barrett Town Primary School in St James, during a ceremony where tablets were presented to Barrett Town Primary School and John’s Hall Primary School. Looking on (from left) are Anthony Murray, principal of Barrett Town Primary School; Keith Smith, chief executive officer of the eLearning Jamaica Company Limited; and Dr Michelle Pinnock, regional director of the Ministry of Education’s Region Four.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Education Minister Fayval Williams says provisions are being made for 4,000 special-needs students to receive specially designed equipment so they can participate in the digital learning process.

“We are making special provision for our special-needs students, and the number of devices that I saw was about 4,000 devices. Of course, they have to be specific depending on the needs of the children,” said Williams.

“Additionally, I know that the Ministry of Education has spent some time to create some Braille books for students who might be sight-impaired. We understand the different needs, the spectrum of needs among our special-needs students, and we are catering for them as best we can,” added Williams.

Previous donation

The education minister’s announcement follows a previous donation of 210 specialised computer tablets for children with special needs, made by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to the Ministry of Education in July. The tablets were distributed to several special-needs schools, including The Salvation Army School for the Blind in Kingston and St Christopher’s School for the Deaf in St Ann.

Williams said that while there is no way to predict the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the suspension of face-to-face classes since March, all students must be able to participate in the education system’s new normal, which is digital learning.

“There have been some entities that have come on board with these specialised tablets and software for some of our special-needs students. We do not know how long we will be in this pandemic, but we are moving to ensure that all our children can engage with the education system,” said Williams.

The minister was speaking ahead of the official launch of her ministry’s ambitious ‘One Laptop or Tablet Per Child’ initiative, which will be launched on October 22 and will be funded through the National Education Trust.

During Thursday’s handover ceremony, Barrett Town and John’s Hall primary schools were given 89 tablets for grades four, five and six students under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). Barrett Town Primary got 19 tablets and John’s Hall Primary received 70 tablets. Another 62 tablets were later distributed to the Glendevon Primary and Junior High School.

The tablet-distribution exercise, which was done through the eLearning Jamaica Company Limited, was part of the ministry’s planned distribution of 40,000 tablets for PATH students, to augment the 18,000 tablets and 12,000 desktop computers already in the school system.