Thursday, January 27, 2005

Computer installation and training plans for Morant Bay/Yallahs

From: Novella Keith
To: Janice Steinberg
Cc: Mike Dorn
Subject: Edu-tourism information

Hi Jan,
hope you are enjoying the snow! Actually, I'm assuming that schools are closed today, but am not sure that's the case.

I have some information that hopefully you can use. sorry I didn't get it to you before, but I've been under pressure from some deadlines (and actually that work isn't finished yet, but I know I just shouldn't postpone this any longer)!

Let me know what's next.


All of the work of Edu-Tourism is concentrated in the parish of St.Thomas, which is one of the least developed and quite rural parishes, located in South Eastern Jamaica. There are 5 main towns. Yallahs, where our Center for Global Understanding is located (this is the Jamaican headquarters of Edu-Tourism, and where the students will be lodged) is the second largest, with only 12,000 inhabitants.

General information about Jamaica and St. Thomas Parish:
St.Thomas population, 92,000 (just to give you an idea, the population of Kingston, the capital city, is about 600,000 and total population of Jamaica is 2.7 million). Jamaica is in the middle range of Third World countries: Jamaica Gross Domestic Product is $3,700 per capita; life expectancy is 73.4 (male) and 77.5 (female). As is the case in all Third World countries, a large percentage of the population is young (30% is between 0 and 14 years). Jamaica has compulsory education to age 14, but many children, especially in rural areas, end their education before high school, at the equivalent of our 8th grade. I don't have the exact stats on that. Literacy rate in St.Thomas is thus lower than the Jamaica average -- 75% for St.Thomas versus 81% (male) and 89% (female) for the whole country. Yes, there are consistently more females in education than males (at the university level, about 70% are women). By some accounts, literacy rates are dropping, however. The government is currently focusing on improving the quality of education and level of literacy in primary schools. A recent report found that many students who enter primary school, especially from rural areas, are "not ready" (especially in the areas of auditory and visual discrimination). Courseware to assist with literacy and numeracy is needed and we are currently working to identify and secure appropriate software for "our" basic schools. If possible, we would like to include this item in our fundraising, as well as the cost of shipping about 60 computers (see below).

It is estimated that there are currently 150,000 Internet users in Jamaica. All government ministries have well developed sites. Local content is limited, especially for the rural areas, but growing. One of the national newspapers, The Jamaican Gleaner, has developed a "go-Jamaica" site ( that also has a local companion ( and includes information for every parish (http://www.go-StThomas. The main driving force behind the push for local content previously had been the tourist industry and agriculture. The National Library of Jamaica has a directory of recommended sites -- see There is also considerable emphasis on making computers available to the population in general, and putting computers in schools (Telecommunications Act of 2000).

Education and Technology Initiatives:
The UN has an ambitious program, Education for All, which wants to have all children in school and early childhood education available to all by the year 2015. Jamaica's educational policies are trying to follow that lead. So there is currently considerable emphasis on basic school education (3 to 6 year olds), which is widely available but involves some fees and costs (like for lunch) that are at times difficult to meet for very poor parents. The ratio of students to teachers in basic schools is 45-1 and only 22% of the teachers are trained.

An effort has been mounted by the government and private foundations to put a computer lab (about 15 computers) in every primary and secondary school in the country. The educational plan called for at least 60% of Jamaican schools to have computer labs of up to 30 computers each. I don't think those targets are close to being met. According to the most recent data, computers are available in 170 of the 250 High Schools throughout Jamaica. Again, rural areas are behind the capital city and tourist areas. There are currently no plans to put computers in basic schools, which is why we started from there. Most primary and secondary schools have access to the Internet, but this usually involves one single telephone line, with data transmission rates that vary from 14 Kbps to 56 Kbps. There is no broadband access in St.Thomas (again, it is available in Kingston and tourist areas only, though mostly to businesses). Thus access is a big problem. Access is often through the school library, which usually has only one or two terminals. Students are charged for time to access the Net, to help subsidize fees the school incurs. In remote areas, however, there is still no infrastructure for land telephone lines -- though cell phones are widely available and cell phone calls can be made to and from most of the country. Through a recent program, computers with internet access have also been put in all Parish libraries and branch libraries (there are at least two computers per library even in small rural villages. Fees will seem fairly low by our standards -- I seem to recall JA$50 (US$ 0.80) for half an hour; however, the daily rate for unskilled laborers in St.Thomas is about JA$600 -- so that will give you a better idea of cost). The library in Morant Bay, the capital city of St.Thomas Parish has about 8 computers; Yallahs library has about 4. When I was at the library, there were lots of students coming in after school using (and waiting for) the computers and the internet; most of them seemed of high school age. There are also Internet kiosks (or "cafes") in many Post Offices (a total of 60 post offices, in 2002). In St.Thomas parish, there is one in Yallahs and one in Morant Bay, the Parish capital. I also read that the Jamaican government had a plan for every Jamaican to have an e-mail address by the end of 2002 -- didn't happen -- the idea was that Post Offices could receive and download messages, and put them in envelopes for customers.

The secondary school we'll be working with as our main partner is Yallahs Comprehensive Secondary School. This is one of two secondary schools in the town. A technology teacher and his class are eager to collaborate and learn from the Gratz students. The principal has given permission. I'll try to get the teacher's email contact, so we can be in touch with him directly. All are quite excited about this initiative. We had meetings with the appropriate officials at the Ministry of Education and there is great interest. In fact, they told us of many experiences where "the computer stopped working" and no one knew what to do about it -- often, it turns out to be a small problem. I told them that there are organizations in Philadelphia that distribute second-hand computers to low-income people and their experience is that buyers who take a short course to learn about hardward tend not to come back saying they have problems... (Do you know of Stan Pokras' work?)

The students will also be doing the same with training teachers in basic schools that have received computers through Edu-Tourism (and others, as identified by our collaborating Ministry officials). This means about 50 teachers, probably in at least 2 sessions. Some training may also happen in the individual schools, as we definitely want to Gratz students to visit at least some of these schools and have experiences with the students and teachers on the ground.

Edu-Tourism began distributing computers to schools in January 2004. Basic schools are early childhood schools for children 3 to 6, before they enter primary school. The student-teacher ratio is 45-1, and only about 22% of the teachers qualify as "trained teachers" (data from 2003). The teachers have received only very basic training in computers and only a handful of the teachers (and even fewer of the students) have computers at home. Currently we have distributed approximately 35 computers to 12 of these schools (2 or 3 per school) which have an average of 3 teachers per school and together account for approximately 1000 students (so, a total of about 35-40 teachers). Other Edu-Tourism partners have also received some computers. Computers are donated mostly by West Chester University, with some business and private donors. Since December 2003 we have taken 50 complete desktops and 12 laptops and 3 printers to Jamaica. We currently have approximately 60 desktops (complete with monitors, etc.) waiting to be shipped; approximately 30 are Pentium 3s. There are also some printers, as we have had requests for these (initially we held back on printers because the cost of ink is very high). Most of the computers are internet ready, though our emphasis has not been on Internet readiness, given the information above. Our goals for the basic schools are to familiarize teachers and children with computers, improve their school readiness skills, so they can make a more successful transition to primary schools. Computers in basic schools are also often used by the local community -- entrepreneurial teachers have been known to give classes (small fees charged), prepare and print flyers for local happenings (again, fees charged), etc. So the presence of computers in a basic school can also improve the quality of rural life and create small revenues to support teachers and schools. Needs for training, software, possible uses of computers and printers, etc., were identified through a needs assessment conducted by the last group that visited St.Thomas through sponsorship by Edu-Tourism.

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