IOM Continues Supporting Students For Online Learning During the Pandemic
On Thursday 30th December 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Port of Spain Office distributed 200 electronic tablets to selected schools, Government Agencies and non-governmental organsations, who have been working diligently to narrow the digital divide for students.
The IOM expects that the devices would benefit youth from local at-risk communities and within the Venezuelan migrant community by facilitating and enhancing virtual educational opportunities. Representatives from the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ), the Office of Law Enforcement Policy (OLEP) of the Ministry of National Security, and the TTV Solidarity Network (TTVSOLNET) were present at the UN House, Port of Spain to receive the devices. Five identified schools and two homes would also benefit from this donation. The initiative was funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).
Speaking at the distribution ceremony, Chargé d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Port of Spain, Shante Moore, pointed out that education, like so many other aspects of life under COVID19, has changed dramatically and said it is important that all children, whether local or a Venezuelan migrant, have access to remote education. Moore indicated that local and migrant children having access to education is a priority for the US Government. He added that, “…it’s important that all of our children, whether they are Venezuelan refugees or Trinbagonian children, have the opportunity to study, to make sure they have all access to educational tools”.
“Today’s donation just reiterates our commitment to Trinidad and Tobago, the Venezuelan refugee community, and to the United Nations, the IOM in particular, to do all that we can to help in this area.” Moore thanked the Embassy’s partners at UNHCR, UNICEF, Living Water Community and TTVSOLNET for providing “this invaluable service”.
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. “When we discussed education, it came up there is still quite a digital divide and students are still not accessing virtual learning platforms.”
She recalled the initiative began earlier this year with the distribution of 160 tablets.
“We certainly hope to continue investing not just in tablets but any other supporting devices, possibly internet access, and even things beyond education but that supports it such as mental health and psychosocial support.”
Ali said the initiative also 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. The Head of Office added that “it is quite important for IOM with the assistance of the US State Department, to provide tablets, not just to migrant children but to Trinidad and Tobago children as well, or what we call our ‘host community’.”
OLEP Director Gale Charles described the donation as a “godsend” for the organisation’s work to assist the vulnerable in the East Port of Spain community. “We would have done programmes face-to-face prior, and were wondering how we were going to get to those persons. This was sent by God. Everything just fell into place. And so we are indeed thankful for this gift.”
Darrion Narine, programme manager at the Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) under the CCSJ, said they do a lot of work with children in the areas of education and psychosocial aid and development. “This now offers an opportunity for those who don’t have access to educational material… and is going to be a big help for us in reaching that vulnerable community and ensuring that our next generation is fully prepped and ready.”
Founder and director of TTVSOLNET Lorennys Mendoza said TTVSOLNET has been working with many organisations over the years, but IOM has been the key one. “They were very quick to understand the needs and the actions they had to take in that moment and over these years. So we work very closely with them not only with our educational programme but also empowerment trainings for Venezuelan women and other aid programmes in Trinidad.”