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Educator La Toya Bain, of Arima, is helped by The Wizz Computers store manager Hashim Mohammed as she purchases a Iaptop to be used by her children for the new school term at the store's Edward Street, Port-of-Spain branch yesterday.

Bavita Gopaulchan

Computers and internet access will soon be provided to “needy” students.

During his 2021 Budget presentation yesterday in the Parliament, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that $50 million has been allocated in this year’s budget to acquire computers students.

Despite reducing taxes (Value Added Tax and Online Purchase Tax) on computers, tablets and laptops last month and the ‘Adopt-a-School’ initiative, the Minister said there are students who are still unable to facilitate online classes. In an effort to address this, Minister Imbert said computers will be purchased and distributed to these students through a joint ministry effort.

“The Ministry of Education to identify the students, the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation to make sure we get value for money and proper specifications of equipment and the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to ensure those who really need these computers get them”, according to the Minister.

In the first quarter of next year, students will also be able to access internet services through ‘MIFI’ technology. Imbert explained that this is a mobile device which uses the 3G/4G mobile network to create a mini wireless hotspot and this can be shared among mobile devices within range.

“We are providing these devices to 45,000 students based on need”, Minister Imbert noted.

Furthermore, the Minister revealed, existing hotspots and internet cafes will be expanded in all areas of the country and will come into effect in fiscal 2021.

Overall the Education Ministry received $7.97 billion.

With online schooling in full swing, Minister Imbert assured the curriculum is being restructured for effective ICT integration as well as teachers training to ensure they become versed in the new environment. Additionally, he said in keeping with the importance of information technology the government has embarked on a “systematic upgrade and enhancement of all ICT systems in the education sector”.

In response to the measures, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association, Antonia Tekah-De Freitas told Guardian Media, “The upgrade of ICT systems in the education sector must be seen as a mechanism for developing resilience in the education system – which TTUTA has called for.”

However, Tekah-De Freitas added, “the concomitant development of robust and responsive systems and procedures to support and sustain the implementation of this policy initiative is crucial for building digital capacity in the education system”.