By Lincoln DePradine
Students at more than 200 early childhood institutions in Jamaica are the beneficiaries of a supply of “Onetab’’, an electronic device that the Canadian donors say would allow the users – children ages three to six – “teach themselves literacy and numeracy’’.
Canada-based Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) were the donors of 1000 “Onetab’’ devices that work without the need for internet or online access. A daily charge is said to provide at least eight hours of learning.
“These computers cost approximately CAD$100 each,’’ said Diana Burke, president of PACE Canada. “Despite the COVID-19 impact, PACE raised sufficient funds to purchase the 1000 computer devices through our community partnerships with the Jamaica Canadian Association, members and supporters, for students in rural areas of Jamaica and those without the internet.’’
Among other organizations that supported the PACE computer initiatives were George Brown College and Central Jamaica Organization.
The computer donation is the latest PACE Canada contribution of educational material to Jamaica.
PACE Canada, a federal Canadian charitable organization, was founded by a group of women in the Jamaican Diaspora in 1987. It has been supporting basic or kindergarten schools across Jamaica through funding, delivery of technology and education opportunities.
“PACE sends approximately CAD$100,000 to these schools annually to assist with their upgrades to meet the pandemic needs and the government’s 12 early childhood standards. This will continue in 2022,’’ said Burke, a career technology executive.
The Onetab devices, developed by UK-based company “Onebillion.org’’, were handed over at a ceremony at the Jamaica Ministry of Education, Youth and Information by Mark Fullerton, director of communications for PACE.
Education Minister Fayval Williams, on receiving the tablets, said that “a child should be provided with resources and opportunities to achieve their full potential. These devices are a step in this direction’’.
Karlene DeGrasse-Deslandes, executive director of the Early Childhood Commission, also expressed appreciation to PACE Canada “for always supporting the children of Jamaica’’.
The Coronavirus pandemic, she said, “has greatly impacted the lives of our children, especially those in the early childhood age cohort residing in rural areas, who are without devices. This donation of 1000 learning devices is a significant step in assisting our children to get back to normal’’.
According to Burke, technology and education are essential to success for future generations, adding that “this has been escalated by the virtual learning environments required during the COVID-19 pandemic; those who could not participate are at risk of being left behind. The Onetab devices will help to bridge that gap”.
“PACE would like to obtain more devices as there are over 2000 kindergarten schools on the island,’’ said Burke. “PACE will also explore the opportunity to have Jamaican cultural stories and activities added to future devices being developed by onebillion.org. Once available, PACE would seek funding to acquire more of the devices.’’