1,000 disabled students get online access to classes

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 best educate students with disabilities.

Those students who are less likely to be able to access online education due to monetary constraints or physical disabilities are at much greater risk of falling behind.

However, Digicel Foundation has reached out to to ease that burden through the donation of 1,000 tablets to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. During a handover last Thursday at Digicel’s global headquarters in downtown Kingston, CEO Charmaine Daniels explained that they are focused on enabling students with disabilities.

“We engaged both ministries 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 donation, she said, is a part of the foundation’s four-pronged approach to combat COVID-19 by sanitising, advocating, feeding and enabling — called Operation SAFE Mode.

Wenise Davis, chief commercial officer at Digicel, commenting on the partnership, said:“Each of the tablets is equipped with sim cards that come with one 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, in a release, said it is Jamaica’s largest corporate donor for special needs, having invested more than US$9.5 million in special needs since their inception in 2004.

“Over the years, the foundation has continued to take on disabilities as part of its agenda,” said Colette Roberts Risden, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

“Jamaicans should strive to integrate persons with disabilities within our society. If we start from early with our children where they don’t see disabilities as different, that is where we begin to change the mindset,” said Roberts Risden.

The Digicel Foundation and its corporate arm are long-time partners of both ministries. “At every single point when we call on Digicel, they have always responded. I recall speaking to Digicel about zero rated websites for our students. The company was on board rapidly at the beginning,” said Alando Terrelonge, state minister in the education ministry, as he spoke to the continued relationship. “Through their partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, within three weeks of discussion we had 60 zero rated websites for our tertiary and other students. Within another month we had over 100 zero rated websites for our students.”

“Education is the best gift that we can give to our children. Despite COVID-19, education should not be disrupted. Our children with disabilities still have the ability to continue to be a part of our learning environment. The Digicel Foundation has proven over the last fifteen years that they care about their corporate social responsibility and I would like to thank them for this donation of 1,000 tablets to children who are in need,” said Terrelonge.

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