Munro College moves towards 'digital classrooms' for September

Munro College moves towards 'digital classrooms' for September

Old boys donate $2 million worth of tablets, laptops for e-learning

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Principal of Munro College Mark Smith has announced that plans are being undertaken to advance e-learning at the St Elizabeth institution, even after the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This goal has been made even more realistic following a donation by the school's old boys' association.

Through a collaboration of the classes of 1980, 1995, and 2001, among other individuals, 140 tablets and laptops valued at over $2 million have been donated to the school.

“I reiterate my thanks to the Munro College Old Boys Association (MCOBA) and the individual year groups, as well as the trust chairman… This idea came about from before COVID-19 [reached Jamaica]. In January I had discussions during my operations meeting about the shift coming for CXC [Caribbean Examination Council] with e-learning. I said to the team it wasn't fair [for] a child to do writing from kindergarten to secondary school and then at fifth form type an exam. There was a disconnect there, so I said we have to now shift towards a digital classroom where students start to get comfortable with the process of typing and submitting assignments,” said Smith.

Speaking during a presentation of tablets and laptops on Tuesday at the education ministry's regional office in Mandeville, Smith detailed that in September, for the new school year, all students will be required to have a digital device for learning.

“We have made a bit of a shift in asking that come September 1, all students from grades seven straight through to grade 13 will be required to have some sort of digital device, but we understood the challenges that we would face so we started to look at how we will go about in facilitating tablets for the most vulnerable among our students, [because] that was the problem,” he said.

“We know that there are parents who could not afford it. COVID-19 came about during our deliberations and this became the most important thing to do right now, which was to get tablets. When we did our surveys, the data showed that we had 15 to 20 per cent of our boys which we were not reaching, because of their vulnerability — not being able to have access to tablets,” Smith added.

The donated tablets are equipped with third generation (3G) wireless mobile telecommunications technology.

“For MCOBA to come on board is truly amazing, because it ensures that every single child who has a desire to learn gets the opportunity to have a device… It is going to form a part of what would be similar with a book rental system in schools. We will manage and distribute the tablets.

“It is a two-tier programme: It will be distributed through our bookroom programme and the second tier is for where there are parents who might not be able to afford a tablet upfront... we can provide a payment plan. The school will work closely with our old boys' association to purchase ahead, and the parents will pay back the money for those tablets and those tablets would become that of the child,” Smith said.

The school's board chairman Elias Azan said several year groups have pitched in and made the donation possible.

“We are at approximately $2.5 million in value, in terms of the donations, and climbing, in response to the poor Internet connectivity across the region that the minister, [Karl Samuda], spoke about at the press conference, and to help our students to ace the CXC exams in July,” he said, adding that 15 more devices were to be delivered that day to add to the donations.

One hundred and sixty tablets and laptops have already been handed over to the institution.

Munro's sister institution — Hampton School — is also preparing to advance their e-learning programme.

“Because of our appeal, it has spilled over to Hampton where the old girls are now gathering funds,” said Victor Tomlinson, president of the Munro College Old Boys Association.

Regional director for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information in Region Five — Manchester and St Elizabeth — Dr Nadine Leachman commended the association and the school's principal for the ongoing initiative.


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