Belfield police assist students with Internet access

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Belfield police assist students with Internet access

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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COPS at Belfield Police Station in St Mary are responding to the needs of students in their tight-knit, rural community who have been hindered by a lack of Internet access in the area.

At the start of the new school term in October, Belfield Primary School students were experiencing challenges to access virtual classrooms, with just about half the school's population being engaged in online learning.

“We have 130 students, and most of them are not able to do online classes because there is no Internet connectivity in many of the adjoining districts,” Principal Michael Calvert told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Seeing the plight of the students, Calvert said the school partnered with the police officers to assist those struggling with Internet access. With the police station being one of the only sites where Wi-Fi connection is available, the police offered to accommodate up to seven students from Monday to Friday, to allow them access to their classes.

Corporal Dave McLean, who is in charge at the station, told the Observer that the initiative was one that they were happy to facilitate.

“We are happy to be able to assist the students. As you can see, this is a rural community and many children here don't have access to the Internet at home. We here as officers in the community saw the need of the students and decided that it was only right to try and accommodate them. So we agreed with the school to have some students come here to access their online classes,” said Corporal McLean.

The police go even further to assist the students with homework and other assignments, a task to which they have committed themselves, along with their regular duties.

“We are so trained as police officers to carry out our function as law enforcers, but also to serve the people. So we can multi-task, and we communicate well with the students,” McLean said, adding that residents have also responded by donating hand sanitisers to ensure that COVID-19 safety protocols are followed.

“When the students come, we do their temperature check and ensure that they are wearing their masks and that they sanitise.

“It's a remarkable feeling, because persons who pass by the station and see what we are doing offer their assistance and have donated additional sanitisers, while other persons from outside the community have made pledges to give us additional assistance,” said McLean.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for the St Mary South Eastern constituency Dr Norman Dunn has commended the police for their contribution to the children.

“It is so heartwarming to see how the police in Belfield have responded to the needs. I want to congratulate them for reaching out and allowing students to access the Wi-Fi services they have at the station.

“It is one of the few areas here that has Wi-Fi. It shows that the penetration is an issue, that we are hoping that the Government will make every effort to ensure that we have the service here,” said Dunn.

He was meeting with administrators at the school yesterday, where he addressed the digital divide issue facing rural students and the Government's initiatives to tackle the problem.

“I want to mention that Government is trying to open up a digital economy in Jamaica,” said Dunn, pointing to an initiative recently launched by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining for public Wi-Fi hot spots across the island.

So far, the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, Clarendon, St Elizabeth, and St Catherine have benefited from the initiative. Dunn said the first public Wi-Fi hotspot in St Mary will be launched in Annotto Bay on Friday.

“That is one of the ways in which the Government is trying to bridge the digital divide by taking the service as wide as possible. It is a definite decision by the Government to provide the technology so that persons can access the Internet and, therefore, be a part of the global community,” said Dunn.


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