Setting up distance learning for students who were forced out of school by the coronavirus pandemic is a challenge, but it's even more of a challenge for educators to figure out how to facilitate access for students with disabilities.
The Digicel Foundation is aiming to ease that burden through a donation of 1,000 tablets to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI), and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS). During a handover on Thursday, June 4 at the Digicel Global Headquarters, CEO Charmaine Daniels explained that they are focused on enabling students with disabilities.
“We engaged both Ministry’s to enable our students with disabilities to better access distance learning. These tablets all feature the text-to-speech and captions on-screen features which we hope will assist our Blind and Deaf students,” said Daniels. The tablets are also light-weight for those who struggle with arm strength.
Wenise Davis, Chief Commercial Officer at Digicel, also spoke to the partnership. “Each of the tablets is equipped with sim cards that come with 1-year of free data. This is to ensure that each special needs student who receives a tablet will have access to the internet. We want each student to know that Digicel is there with them as their digital lifestyle partner.”
The Digicel Foundation is Jamaica’s largest corporate donor for Special Needs. The organisation has invested over US$9.5 Million in Special Needs since its inception in 2004.
“Over the years, the Digicel Foundation has really taken on disabilities as its mission,” said Collette Risden, Permanent Secretary in the MLSS. “I want to thank the Digicel Foundation for their continued support to the sector.” The Digicel Foundation has partnered with the MLSS in the past to build Special Needs schools and support persons with Special Needs in a variety of ways.
Digicel and its Foundation have also been a long time partner of the MOEYI. “At every point when we call on Digicel, Digicel has always responded,” said Minister Alando Terrelonge, referencing the quick response of the telecommunications agency when there was a need to offer zero-rated access to educational sites. The minister highlighted the importance of digital and online access as a basic human right, with great emphasis on the need for internet access for all students.
Over 1,000 students have already reached out to the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities to receive assistance. Daniels has committed to future partnerships. “We’ll continue to support both ministry’s as we help to create a world where no one gets left behind.”