International Organization for Migration Social Media and Communications Consultant Julien Neaves is flanked by recipients of an IOM tablet distribution ceremony held Tuesday at Fifth Company Baptist Primary School, Moruga Road, Princes Town. From left to right are Fifth Company Baptist Primary School Acting Principal Donna Bobcombe-Alleyne, St Mary’s Government Primary School Acting Principal Samdaye Basdeo-Ali, St Michael’s Anglican Primary Principal Monique Scipio-Daniel, and Cowen Hamilton Secondary School Principal Natalie Small.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has donated 70 electronic tablets to selected schools and community residences in its continuing effort to narrow the digital divide for students and at-risk children.

According to a press release from IOM, Case Manager Tinestia Haynes, who was on hand to present the tablets at both distributions said, “IOM continues to recognize the need to assist migrant children who are currently in the State’s care.

The following is a press release from the IOS:

This week the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Port of Spain Office distributed 70 electronic tablets to selected schools and community residences in its continuing effort to narrow the digital divide for students and at-risk children.

On Tuesday a distribution was held at Fifth Company Baptist Primary School, Moruga Road, Princes Town and the recipients were Fifth Company Baptist Primary School, Cowen Hamilton Secondary School, St Mary’s Government Primary School, and St Michael’s Anglican Primary School. Then on Thursday a second distribution was held at UN House, Chancery Lane, Port of Spain, and the recipients were the Credo Foundation for Justice (Credo Sophia House), Mary Care Centre, St Dominic’s Children’s Home, and St Jude’s School for Girls.

IOM Case Manager Tinestia Haynes, who was on hand to present the tablets at both distributions said, “IOM continues to recognize the need to assist migrant children who are currently in the State’s care. In so doing, IOM POS has donated electronic devices to five community residences which provide accommodation and support to migrant children.”

“The provision of these devices would facilitate the bridging of the digital divide between children and e-learning, as well as communication and engagement with family members, in an effort to maintain their bond. It is anticipated that this interaction with family members would also promote family reunification and allow for an easier transition to their family homes.”

During the December distribution IOM Port of Spain Head of Office Jewel Ali recalled in March 2021 there was a round of consultations with Government, NGOs, and other local partners on what they saw as priorities for the next three years. She noted on the area of education the issue was raised that there remains a digital divide and students are still not accessing virtual learning platforms.

She added the initiative responds to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which speaks of equality in education and responds to the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) Objective 15 which seeks to provide inclusive and equitable quality education to migrant children and youth.

At Tuesday’s distribution Fifth Company Baptist Primary School Acting Principal Donna Bobcombe-Alleyne said, “At (our) school and especially in the area of Fifth Company…parents are very challenged where money is concerned. IOM has decided to give us this great favour of the tablets and on behalf of the parents I really want to say a hearty thank you because this has been a really good initiative. The children will benefit so much from this.”

St Michael’s Anglican Primary Monique Scipio-Daniel said, “The COVID19 pandemic has placed us all in a position where we are now virtual. And we have several children at the school who are not as fortunate to be able to get online because of the lack of a device, or they may have to be sharing devices with siblings and so on in the home. Having this donation from IOM is really a blessing to all the families at the school. These children will be able to now get online daily once they have the internet connection as well. And it is going to make a huge difference in their lives.”

At Thursday’s distribution St Dominic’s Children’s Home Manager Sister Arlene Greenidge said, “Our children are involved in various developmental programmes and academically they are in different schools both within the mainstream and via tutors. So, our aim is to ensure each child has his or her own device. This will bring us closer to realising that goal. And the tablets will promote consistency and timeliness in the provision of these services.”

Mary Care Centre Chairperson Sister Deborah De Rosia said at the centre they currently have approximately 31 children.

“And that is always a challenge for them to have devices to meet with their counsellors, their social workers, and besides their education. Sometimes teachers must make the sacrifice to come on later in the day because they need to work with the students as they don’t all have devices, or they are sharing. So (this donation) is going to ease the teachers who are going to work with them as a group, and it would also give the children an opportunity on a one-on-one basis to relate to their teachers, their counsellors, their social workers. And I am sure they will use it for a little bit of relaxation and recreation to relieve the stress of the moment. So, with guidance we are sure this is also going to help them mentally and socially besides the academic development they are going to be exposed to.”

The ceremonies this week were a continuation of tablet distributions which began two months ago. In December 2021, 123 tablets were distributed to the Office of Law Enforcement Police (OLEP), the Catholic Commission for Social Justice Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees, and NGO the TTV Solidarity Network.

IOM expects that the devices would benefit the students by facilitating and enhancing virtual educational opportunities. The initiative was funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).