Partnership needed to facilitate zero-rated online platforms for students

Letters to the Editor

Partnership needed to facilitate zero-rated online platforms for students

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Mona Guild is calling on the Government to provide zero-rated learning platforms for tertiary institutions through a partnership with higher education institutions (HEIs) and Internet service providers.

In light of the recent announcement by the Ministry of Health regarding the increase in novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, and the possibility of an extension of the crisis by three to five months, one can foresee delays in the resumption of face-to-face instruction at tertiary institutions for more than 14 days or, in the case of The UWI, Mona, 30 days. Consequently, there are emerging cries of concern from the student population as it is becoming more apparent that the success of the current semester could be grossly compromised.

This concern will be maximised if students are unable to consistently access the virtual academic platforms of their respective institutions.

The UWI Mona Guild Council wishes to remain optimistic about the Government of Jamaica's ability to effectively control the spread of the virus and return the country to a state of normality, but, as a proactive student government, it is imperative that we prepare for worst-case scenarios.

With The UWI Mona having approximately 20,000 students, plus the student population of the other HEIs, there is no guarantee of how these students will be able to access their schools' online platforms when academic instruction goes fully virtual. This is especially concerning for students living in areas with little to no Internet access who may be forced to compromise their health by commuting to public spaces such as libraries or Internet cafes. Therefore, there must be an equitable solution.

We applaud the Government's decision to make relevant ministry/State websites zero-rated and believe that a similar partnership can be explored with HEIs to make their main online platforms zero-rated and easily accessible as well.

Though the aforementioned is the main request of The UWI Mona Guild Council, we further ask that the Ministry of Science & Technology assist HEIs in fortifying their online platforms to facilitate secure, mass usage without network failures or cyber threats.

Finally, HEIs must ensure that academic instructors receive at least basic training in the use of the technology as the lack thereof can be disadvantageous to the virtual learning experience of students.

Andre Cooper

Public relations officer

Office of the Guild of Students

guild.pro@uwimona.edu.jm


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