Govt Rolls Out $50m Laptop Initiative In Sept

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When the Ministry of Education rolls out its $50 million secondary school laptop programme for the new school term in September, students will not be allowed to take the computers home.

The news was given yesterday by Education Minister Anthony Garcia at a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Port-of-Spain.

This would be the PNM’s first purchase of 13,600 high-quality Lenovo laptops for students since coming into office in 2015.

In March, the Central Tenders Board under the Ministry of Finance, awarded the laptop contract to Memory Bank Computers Ltd.

Each school will be given 50 laptops.

There are 144 Government, Government-assisted and private secondary schools while there are nine Servol centres where students are placed.

Under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar led People’s Partnership (PP) government approximately 95,000 laptops were purchased from 2010 to 2015 for students who used it in their homes and schools.

From 2010 to 2013, the PP spent $253 million on 73,000 laptops.

In September, Garcia said, all secondary school will be furnished with superior quality laptops as opposed to what were previously distributed.

Garcia said the laptops have been cause for a lot of “talk and controversy,” stating that the ministry had stood in its belief that laptops can be utilised far better by having them lodged at the schools’ premises.

Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan made it abundantly clear that “there has been a shift in policy from the provision of laptops to individual students to laptops for schools to be used by students.”

Gerard Phillip, lead ICT in education at the ministry, said principals and heads of departments would have to work out their own schedule, based on the request of teachers for the laptops.

The laptops will be distributed to schools in July.

Providing the laptops would also require that teachers be adequately trained to use them.

By September, the ministry would have 1,100 trained teachers and heads of departments in the field of e-learning which will be passed on to students.

Seecharan said the ministry will provide guidelines as to how the laptops will be utilised and stored in schools. The laptops will come with storage cards which has a locked in mechanism for its safety and protection.

Depending on what subject is taught, Seecharan said arrangements will be put in place for the laptops to be utilised “anywhere in the school” under the guidance of the school management and they are to be returned to a centralised stored location.

Garcia could not say if the laptops was a one-off purchase or if they will continue to buy more.

Asked why the ministry had a change of heart to purchase the laptops, Garcia said when the PNM government came into office they were concerned about laptops being given to each student without the requisite training, while 90 per cent of the laptops were not properly utilised

He said the ministry’s ICT experts advised them they can get value for money “by proving laptops for the schools which the teachers and children would have access to instead of giving an individual laptop to each child that resulted in a colossal waste.”

The laptops will come with a three year warranty on parts and labour. He said the ministry did not source a loan to buy the laptops but used money from the coffers.

Rural schools that do not have internet service, Garcia said they will be provided with an aptus device which allows educators and learners to connect to digital learning platforms without the need for internet access.