The Jamaica government says it is providing an estimated J$321 million to purchase digital devices for students in need.
Finance and Public Service Minister, Dr. Nigel Clarke, said that the funds are being made available under the Government’s Social and Economic Recovery and Vaccine Programme for Jamaica (SERVE).
He said the devices, to be procured by e-Learning Jamaica Limited, are being acquired for youngsters who have not benefited from similar provisions under other State-funded initiatives.
The project, dubbed the ‘SERVE Jamaica Digital Device Programme’, is the first component being embarked on under the J$60-billion SERVE Jamaica Programme, which was announced Clarke, during the 2021/22 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives in March.
SERVE Jamaica is intended to lay the foundation for the country’s recovery from the fallout resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Clarke, who outlined details of the SERVE Jamaica Digital Programme during the sitting of the House of Assembly, said it is a collaboration involving the Ministries of Finance and the Public Service; Education, Youth and Information; Science, Energy and Technology; and Local Government and Rural Development, as well as Members of Parliament (MPs), through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), and Councillors of Municipal Corporations islandwide.
Clarke said the government will provide J$189 million to purchase devices for students identified by legislators and that will result in three million dollars being programmed for each of the 63 constituencies.
He said while a maximum of 100 students per constituency is being targeted, consideration would be given to facilitating more youngsters where needed and if possible.
The Minister said the CDF will be utilized to facilitate the requisite administrative procedures in constituencies, including providing students’ names, schools and registration numbers, and instructions regarding deployment and collection of the devices.
He said that arrangements involving councilors will be piloted by the Local Government Ministry and that the Ministry of Education will cross-reference the lists of proposed beneficiaries with the database for its various similar engagements to avoid duplications.
“Once the devices have been procured by e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service will make payment to the supplier directly, by instruction from the Accountant General’s Department,” Clarke said.
He told legislators that the students receiving devices provided under other State-funded initiatives will not be eligible for a similar provision under the SERVE Jamaica Programme.
“But if they have applied and they have not yet received it, then the policy intent would be that we would scratch what they have applied for and they’d just get [a] device [under SERVE Jamaica],” he said, adding that devices are expected to be available for distribution during the back-to-school preparatory period in August,
“The SERVE Jamaica Digital Device Programme does not replace the existing Ministry of Education, Youth and Information programmes. It cannot. It is a much smaller programme in size. It merely complements and supplements the larger central government programme,” Clarke said.