“Lessons Alive” fundraising campaign sources devices for vulnerable students
EXUMA, BAHAMAS — Two hundred students in the Exuma Islands are now better able to get online for classes thanks to the delivery of digital tablets by the Sandals Foundation.
The learning devices will provide major support to vulnerable students being engaged in a mixture of in-person and distance learning instructions, made possible by donations from incredible Sandals Resorts International guests and a strong network of partners and donors.
Heidi Clarke, executive director at the Sandals Foundation, said the initiative forms part of the organization’s sustainable investment and support of education within the Caribbean.
“It was very important for us to help make the transition to online learning as easy as possible. The digital transformation within our education system is inevitable as more of our lives’ activities are being done online. We must ensure our children are digitally literate and there is equitable access to the technological tools so they can continue their learning,” Clarke said.
Over the years, the Sandals Foundation has partnered with a number of schools to provide laptops and supporting programmes to help students develop their capacity in the online space.
Now, as more schools get equipped, Pamela Gorte, district superintendent for the Department of Education on Exuma and the Exuma cays, said the new learning environment has opened new channels for reaching students.
“We are excited about our new approach to educating our students. We have an opportunity to re-examine, reimagine, reset and regain stronger footholds in the educational process. This use of technology now allows us to reach all of our students at the very point of need and for this we are grateful,” Gorte said.
Important to the decision for sourcing these new digital devices, was the ability to accept data cards.
“We are very appreciative of the connectivity challenges experienced in parts of the island and so we were targeted in sourcing devices that could facilitate data sim cards to keep students in remote areas connected,” said Clarke.
This was welcome news for LN Coakley High School Principal Don Barr, who described this climate as a new era in learning.
“Many of our students and teachers are enjoying the benefits of virtual learning. However, we are unable to reach everyone due to internet instability as well as many parents being unable to support the necessary items for learning. These tablets will go a long way in assisting students to get their work done as well as communicating with their teachers,” said Barr.
In August, the Sandals Foundation launched the “Lessons Alive” social media campaign to help families across the Caribbean prepare for the new academic year; and on October 5, the foundation expanded the reach of the campaign to target sourcing digital tablets to help with the growing remote learning needs.
The digital learning landscapes across the seven countries in which Sandals operates — Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados and the Turks & Caicos Islands — have all been assessed and intervention provided as needed.