“Are you having a good time using your tablets?”
“YES!!!” shouts a chorus of students.
It’s the International day for persons with disabilities and Jamaica’s Portfolio Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon Fayval Williams, is hosting a virtual check-in to learn from students with special needs, some of 534 who are receiving tablets donated by UNICEF, about how they are being able to use them.
Helping learning continue at home
“I use my tablets to read, do my online schoolwork, to do maths and learning things. – Amoya White, aged 11,a student at Randolph Lopez School in Hope in Kingston.
For Tichan Beadle, aged 18 from Edgehill School of Special Education, St Ann, besides improving on her subjects, the tablet has also helped her social skills and it is a source of psychosocial support – especially vital at this time, for many children whom the disruptions to their normal life has worsened their mental health.
“It helps me to interact with my teachers and classmates… I receive counselling from my guidance counsellor which helps me to explain how I feel being away from face-to-face class.”
‘One Laptop or Tablet Per Child’
The tablets are ‘Accessibility Ready’, meaning that that students can use them upon delivery. Valued at US$100,000, the UNICEF donation is in support of the Ministry’s ‘One Laptop or Tablet Per Child’ initiative and goes to children identified by their Special Education Unit as most in-need.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit households with children hard. A study by UNICEF and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) revealed that 80 per cent have lost income – losing an average of 46 per cent. For those who have children with disabilities, already incurring higher costs associated with specialised education and education.
That’s why UNICEF has been increasing our support for these families, including a grant under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) conditional cash transfer programme.
Adapting to the new norm
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, 97% of students are currently out-of-school. Here in Jamaica, UNICEF is working with the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) to help school leaders to adapt to the new norm of distance learning, and their teaching staff to keep innovating, whether by online or offline means.
Then there is the reaction by families to such initiatives. We’ve witnessed their appreciation to teachers who go the extra mile for their community – miles extra in the case of motorbiking principal Keron King – and we hope that these tablets, and of course the wider initiative by the Ministry, can help families ensure that their children keep learning at home.
“When the teacher called I was astonished because I wasn’t really expecting it,” says Latoya Bryan, mother of Matthew Gordon, aged 11, also from Randolph Lopez School. “He is learning from it because some things I don’t really know how to go into he’s able to do it, despite his disability!”
The donation was made possible thanks to the financial contribution from the United Arab Emirates government, which has enabled UNICEF to support several education projects in Jamaica since 2019; together with support from Unicomer Jamaica Limited who paid for 100 of the tablets; and Digicel Foundation which provided SIM cards and one-year mobile internet access.
Resources for parents
From videos to activities to stories, visit our webpage for families of children with the disabilities, giving you the information you need to help them reach their full potential in life.