Gov’t halfway through its push to get Internet in all schools

NEGRIL, Hanover — Halfway into a push to provide Internet connectivity at all the country’s schools, Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the initiative.

“Whatever it takes, we are going to ensure that we connect all of our schools across Jamaica. Many of you sitting here already have that connectivity but it is a very, very ambitious programme that has taken us, so far, two years — and we still have at least two more to go to ensure that everything connects and is working in our schools,” she said.

She was addressing educators on the final day of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s 59th annual conference.

The minister said the aim is to have the entire compound of each school connected.

“We do not only want the Internet to be present in the administrative offices, we want it to be present in classrooms as well so you, our teachers in classrooms, will have the use of that to help with your lessons,” stated Williams.

The Government is engaged in a push to harness information and communication technology (ICT) as a major pillar in the transformation of the education sector. Williams said so far, half the number of schools targeted for Internet access have already received the service. She said this has been accomplished through the use of various technologies such as fibre optic cables, microwave dishes and satellites.

As she had noted in earlier comments about funds being available for infrastructure repairs, she assured her audience that there is money earmarked for completing the Internet access project.

“Finding the money to do it is not an issue; it’s just staying on it, implementing day in, day out until schools are completely, adequately connected. We seek your patience as we do this,” appealed Williams.

“Different schools are at different stages, however, those schools who have not gotten a call yet, they have not seen a service person, they’ve not seen anything [happening] you are not forgotten. If it’s gonna take a satellite we will get the service to you — it is our commitment. This is a major pillar of transformation in education,” the minister added.

Williams also provided an update on the distribution of laptops, saying 10,000 laptops had been delivered to 173 high schools for use in their labs.

“When we can do things on a large scale in a very short period of time, that is what I like to see. All our labs in our secondary schools have been upgraded. You, the principals, told us how many state-of-the-art laptops you needed and we didn’t give you one short or five short — we gave you what you said you needed,” stated Williams.

The minister asked schools to take care of the equipment as they will be vital going forward.

“We’re asking you to ensure that the labs are protected, that you get the security feature for those laptops to connect them and keep them safe and secure, and that the students have access to it. It is to prepare them for greater things down the road, one of which is exams that they will soon begin to have to do online. CXC has been telling us this now for a number of years for us to prepare ourselves so this is all part of that grand plan as well,” she added.

According to the minister, 18,263 (or 83 per cent ) of teachers have also received vouchers to purchase laptops but some have not taken up the offer.

“If you’re having any issues doing that please let us know; there are a couple of thousand teachers who still have not gone to purchase that laptop,” said Williams.