by Charles Gladden
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July. 14, 2022
ConnectED is a partnership between the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology with Digi that has enabled 197 educational institutions throughout the country — inclusive of primary, secondary, and tertiary schools — to access the internet free of cost.
The initiative was launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, when internet access and the proper pieces of equipment were critical to ensure that students could continue receiving classroom instruction.
The schools in most need of such assistance were the ones in the rural communities, primarily in the Toledo District.
The agreement between MOEST and Digi has facilitated the provision of Wi-Fi access points, the installation of security systems, content filtering, support and maintenance, and 24-hour monitoring.
“There is a serious crisis in our country in terms of the digital divide, especially in our rural communities where our students do not have access to reliable adequate internet services. So this is [the] start of addressing that very serious problem,” Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, told the media this week when referring to the partnership.
He explained, “We’re trying to make sure that between now and December we deal with these two hundred schools. And one of the issues, as I mentioned, we have a lot of schools talking about being connected, but when you go to the schools, you talk about it’s the principal’s office that has internet or the teachers lounge or the computer lab has internet, but the classrooms [don’t] have internet, the campus doesn’t have internet, and we want a Belize and an education system where the students have access to the internet wherever they are at school… Of course, as I said, addressing the digital divide, making sure that our students particularly in poor communities, in vulnerable communities, at-risk communities, rural communities have equal access to the internet.”
The initiative is a part of Belize’s National Digital Agenda which was presented in Plan Belize by the present government.
“This is a part of our digitalization plan and it is important for us to bring technology to all of the country, especially to our schools, so this is an important step for us,” said the Minister of Logistics and E-governance, Michel Chebat.
The project is costing the government 2.5 million dollars.