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Web portal glitch delays education ministry’s tablets initiative

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Web portal glitch delays education ministry’s tablets initiative

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 20, 2020

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Thousands of anxious parents are now waiting to submit their applications online to the Ministry of Education in order to secure grants to purchase tablets for their children, under the Government’s Own Your Own Device initiative.

Technical issues with the Web portal, which was supposed to have become available on Tuesday, have resulted in a delay in the start of the electronic application process.

The printed forms, which the education ministry said would be allocated to all Members of Parliament for eligible constituents, would only cover 15,750 of the 36,000 families being targeted for the $20,000 grants.

Applications are slated to close on December 20.

Yesterday, the ministry apologised for the system delay, explaining that the company contracted to develop the system was having technical issues.

“They have assured us that they are working on the technical difficulties and will have the matter addressed as soon as possible,” a release from the ministry said.

The public has been asked to use e-mail addresses and numbers provided by the ministry to make contact regarding the programme.

Only families which earn a maximum of $25,000 monthly will be able to benefit from the incentive, which will provide them with $20,000 towards the purchase of a tablet or laptop, using electronic vouchers at approved vendors.

In addition to electronic applications, Members of Parliament are being enlisted to issue printed application forms to families deemed eligible for the “own your own device incentive programme”.

Education Minister Fayval Williams gave details of the programme in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The beneficiaries being targeted are those who are in need but who are not currently on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

Announcing the initiative in Parliament last week, Williams said in addition to electronic applications, families can obtain application forms from their Members of Parliament each of whom were to receive 250 manually numbered application forms.

The data from the application forms are to be uploaded to the portal, or forms physically submitted to the ministry’s Heroes’ Circle head office before December 4, she outlined.

She said that the ministry will be using the tax administration database and the students security number to verify eligibility for the voucher, which will be valid for six months.

Minister Williams also noted that the Government has sought the advice of the Auditor General’s Department to assess the process in order to ensure transparency.

A number of schools have been issuing reminders advising parents to start applying for the electronic vouchers. Up to yesterday evening the oyod.educate.gov.jm website was still inaccessible.

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