Corporate TT is ready and willing to assist students with the resources needed for the virtual reopening of schools.
So say TT Chamber of Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria, internet service providers Flow and Digicel, and other businesses.
The Education Ministry recently proposed a phased, virtual reopening of schools between September 7 and 14 and called on corporate entities to help provide internet access or laptops to those who cannot afford them.
Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday afternoon, Faria said while he is still awaiting the final details, the chamber “recognises the need to support the Education Ministry.
“I am fairly confident that companies are willing to provide some level of support. We just need a few more details and we will be able to inform our members of what the requirements are so they can see what the opportunities are.
“I think the biggest opportunity is to try to repurpose existing computers, but I don’t know if the ministry is interested in that. Many companies can’t buy computers to give away but if they get this opportunity…”
Digicel’s head of government Shakka Subero said the company supports Government’s efforts to “bridge the digital divide,” adding that it has been assisting since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Digicel has been providing zero-rated access to learning websites such as UWI e-learning, given free access to the ministry’s educational content to over 93,000 households via a special Video on Demand channel on Digicel Home and Entertainment and donated over 1000 digital tablets with data to 23 special-needs schools for their students and teachers.
“We have been engaged in discussions with officials of the Ministry of Education, Telecommunications Authority (TATT) and other key stakeholders to design a suitable support mechanism to make e-learning widely available, and will announce those details in the coming days.”
In a press release, Flow said it recognises its importance “for keeping everyone connected” and is “fully supportive of this initiative.
“We have already engaged in numerous ways to provide access to the required education platforms and content for our students. Through our existing Triple A programme, in existence since 2012, we provide relief with the installation of free broadband service for students in need throughout Trinidad.
“Since March 2020, we have been providing free internet access for students in need from the Cascade School for the Deaf and the Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf, through local NGO Quota International of TT. We have also expanded our Triple A Programme with a partnership with pennacool.com that sees us using a computer-based program to assist Standard Four and Five students prepare for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam.”
Through this website, 30 schools have received assistance for standard four and five students. Flow said within the next three years, it plans to add 20 more schools.
“Additionally, with our Flow Study platform, readily available via mobile app (Android), Flow EVO (TV) or broadband connections, students have access to the same curriculum used in their schools, along with exam-style question and solutions for over 35 subjects, more than ten years of past papers and solutions, plus digital encyclopaedias and virtual science labs which employ digital animations and simulations to assist in learning.
“We also doubled broadband speeds for thousands of our Basic broadband internet customers at no additional cost. We are currently engaged in discussions and exploring ways that we can further enhance our support in realisation of the Government’s vision for our education sector.”
S&S Persad Supermarket has also launched what it is calling a “student community help desk” at its Mayaro and Rio Claro branches. Students can access free printing services and free internet access for school purposes.
The Rebecca Ann Foundation also hosted a device drive, through which people were able to donate either laptops or tablets (used or new) as well as cash donations.
In addition, there have also been some online petitions and GoFundMe pages by good Samaritans to provide devices.