4,000 spe­cial-needs stu­dents to get learn­ing de­vices

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Christo­pher Thomas – Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

ED­U­CA­TION MIN­IS­TER Fay­val Wil­liams says pro­vi­sions are be­ing made for 4,000 spe­cial­needs stu­dents to re­ceive spe­cially de­signed equip­ment so they can par­tic­i­pate in the dig­i­tal learn­ing process.

“We are mak­ing spe­cial pro­vi­sion for our spe­cial­needs 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 sight­im­paired. 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.

CON­TRIB­UTED

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.

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