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Govt spends $253m on laptop initiative
While Government has not yet spent any funds to repair laptops given to secondary school students, $10 million will be spent this year to issue tenders for repairs and maintenance, plus extension of warranties, says Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh. Speaking in the Senate yesterday, Gopeesingh said consideration was being given to seeking warranty extension for the laptops from one year to three years. Government has supplied 73,200 laptops to students from 2010 to 2013 at a cost of $253 million, he added.
He said by September, Government would have supplied students at Forms One, Two, Three, Four and Five with 92,000 laptops. Gopeesingh said 150 information communication technology (ICT) personnel at the ministry currently service laptops and no money had been paid to repair the equipment. He said some computers have sustained water damage or cracked screens.
He said Cabinet had approved spending of $10 million to tender for a company to do repairs on non-functioning computers and maintenance as well as the warranty extension. He was unable to say how many were not working. The ministry would be looking at both local and international companies regarding repairs, he added. Gopeesingh said the laptop initiative was among the People’s Partnership’s (PP) fulfilled promises. Last Saturday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the PP had fulfilled 252 of its 260 promises.
Yesterday, Gopeesingh said Government had, overall, invested $500 million in tools, with the laptop cost, and other equipment costing $250 million for students. He said laptops were provided by Hewlett Packard in 2010 and 2012 and Lenovo in 2011 and 2013. Cost for Government has dropped from $4,100 a unit to approximately $3,000 each. Tendering was under I-Gov TT for the first few years but due to delays, it was done in 2013 under the Central Tenders Board for transparency, he added.
Government T&T students would receive 18,500 laptops and 1,500 also would be provided to primary school teachers, Gopeesingh said. He said the equipment would aid teachers to use a more scientific thrust to plan work. Gopeesingh said the ministry had audited the success of the laptop initiative, including how many students brought them to school and used them and that had attested to its “big success.”
He said Samsung had partnered also with TSTT to launch its tablet product for the smart-classroom initiative, which the ministry was pioneering and which would also be taught to regional and Latin American states. Gopeesingh said he also had talks with 30 publishers on plans for electronic textbooks, on-line. He congratulated winners of the President’s Medal programme, noting it was held for the first time in Tobago recently.
He said the Tobago House of Assembly’s Chief Secretary was happy at the event. Gopeesingh was also congratulated yesterday on the effort by Independent Senator Ayesha Edwards. Gopeesingh said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a recent IDB conference, singled out T&T’s education system for praise, noting it was “seamless.”