JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation assists vulnerable students to stay connected
Kim Mair (left, front row), CEO, JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation and the foundation's chair, Patricia Sutherland (second right, back row) joins students and administrators of Salt Savannah Primary and Infant School for a photo op during a tablet donation at the school. The donation is a part of the 'One Laptop or Tablet per Child' initiative led by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and has seen the foundation donating 400 tablets towards this programme.

DANIEL Wint, a grade six student at Salt Savannah Primary School in Clarendon, is one of the 400 beneficiaries of tablets and SIM cards, to facilitate Internet access for remote learning, from the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation.

In giving credit to the foundation for his tablet, Daniel spoke of the possibilities created through this donation. “I am very grateful for this tablet, with the six-month data plan as it will make a big difference to my education and my future…I can now participate in online classes, which is mandatory due to COVID-19. I can now keep pace with my classmates and other Grade 6 students around the country. I no longer have to worry about being left behind...”

The experience and fears shared by Daniel of falling behind is the unfortunate reality of many students who are still grappling to keep pace with remote learning, more than a year after face-to-face learning was suspended when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Jamaica. As a result of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the Government again postponed efforts to resume face-to-face classes.

According to a recent UNICEF report, 72 per cent of the world's school children are unable to access remote learning during school closures. The report further stated that school children from underprivileged households and those living in rural areas were most likely to be afflicted by the school closures.

It is against this background, and the desire to bridge the digital divide and level the playing field for vulnerable children impacted by socio-economic factors, that the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation decided to donate 250 tablets to 24 schools in rural Jamaica. In addition to rural schools, the foundation has donated tablets to other vulnerable students in at-risk communities and schools that have participated in its national transformational project – Conversations for Greatness.

“Educating our children has been a challenge during the pandemic; (and admittedly) having a device will not solve all of the issues but it will at least ensure access to the online classes and materials,” shared Patricia Sutherland, chairman of the foundation. “It was heartwarming to see the gratitude expressed by the parents and the children [who received tablets] and Daniel in particular, as getting the tablet meant at least he had a chance, and sometimes in life all you need is a chance to unearth your greatness.” Daniel's response is a testament to the transformative impact, as he shared, “The tablet and data will enable me to be more creative by making videos, taking pictures, etc, to improve my presentations. Having this tablet will allow me to become more tech-savvy and who knows, I might start my own tech company in the future.”

The donation of tablets follows on the $10 million given by the foundation to support the 'One Laptop or Tablet per Child' initiative, in response to the call made by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), for corporate companies and individuals, in Jamaica and in the diaspora to lend a hand, to this initiative.

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