In late March, Minister of Education Teina Bishop and secretary of education, Sharyn Paio, delivered a consignment of netbooks to Omoka School. Teachers from the school received netpads funded through the New Zealand Aid Programme, while students received the first instalment of Chinese funded netbooks.
More netbooks arrived in early June, with principal Tyronne Weerasinghe, noticing that his students have become more motivated.
“With technology, the students can conduct important research, engage in programmes which increase literacy and numeracy skills, and communicate quickly across long distances,” Weerasinghe said. “Now, students are getting to school on time and everyone is trying hard. Technology is the key to their success.”
Omoka and Tetautu Schools now have a total of 35 to 40 computers. Every student is receiving at least half an hour of computer time daily, according to Weerasinghe. “Computer skill levels have sky rocketed, and maths skills have improved by about 40 per cent,” he said, adding that students are performing more maths functions, using Microsoft Word to type letters, the younger students are drawing, and many are improving their reading skills. “Our grade 1 to 3 students are becoming very comfortable readers.”
Students in form 1 to 5 are creating Power Point presentations and also engaging in research. Topics include things such as climate change, weather conditions, the environment, and biodiversity.
Weerasinghe said the netnooks have also benefited those on the island who are studying with the University of the South Pacific. Currently Penrhyn has nine students enrolled in long distance learning with the USP campus in Rarotonga. They receive tutoring in subjects such as early childhood education, information technology and accounting.
Weerasinghe acknowledge that it may not always be easy to maintain computers in such a remote location, with all users required to follow strict adherence to special rules about their care. He also harvests parts from old computers for repairs, when they cannot be obtained quickly from Rarotonga.
“21st Century technology is crucial to the students achieving skills which will prepare them for jobs in the future,” says Weerasinghe. “We are well on the way to building those skills.”