Minister of Education thanks LENO LEARNING LINK donors, urges more to step forward to ‘put a tablet in every child’s hand’

Education officials including the Minister of Education and financial services provider Leno today publicly thanked donors who have poured more than $173,000 into a campaign to put a tablet or learning device in every child’s hand, declaring they had “come a long way but still had a very long way to go.”

“In September, when Leno offered to assist the Ministry of Education by leading a campaign to put a learning device in every child’s hand, the Ministry of Education estimated more than 36,300 students across The Bahamas were in need of a tablet or laptop enabling them to participate in distance learning,” said Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd.

“We knew government could not provide 36,000-plus tablets alone so we were delighted to welcome a private sector offer to assist and in the less than two months since that offer was made, Leno has gone above and beyond to live up to its commitment. The Ministry of Education is indeed grateful to Leno and all the contributors to the Leno Learning Link to date.”

Leno kicked off the Leno Learning Link campaign with a $60,000 donation, enough to purchase tablets at a reduced cost, thanks to a partnership with ALIV, for some 500 children to participate in online classes.

With schools in most Family Islands opening for traditional in-classroom learning and friends and family finding funds for many students, the numbers in need of a device allowing them to sign in and complete assignments in New Providence and Abaco dropped dramatically to about 15,000 at the time of kick-off.

“Donors, including some we had never met before, came forward,” said Leno Managing Director, Wealth Solutions Brian Jones at a socially-distanced press conference held at the Ministry of Education.  “We have made a serious dent in what originally felt like a mountain of needs, enabling 3,000 more students to participate in an online learning platform immediately, but with another 12,000 remaining, we still have a very long way to go before we can say, ‘We did it, together. individuals, companies and organizations in The Bahamas put a device in the hands of every student through the Leno Learning Link.’ That remains our goal. Imagine if it were your child sitting at home unable to participate while the child next door could, just imagine – and please donate. No amount is too small.”

“We are grateful to Leno for leading this initiative and very grateful to all those who have contributed, including those who wish to remain anonymous. We know who you are and to you, we say a silent thank you,” said the Minister.

Others who donated following Leno’s $60,000 kick-off contribution include the Insurance Commission of The Bahamas, the Boys Brigade, Photo Magic, Bahamas Cooperative League, Run for Pompey (Exuma) and several individuals from the Ministry of Education, including Greta Brown, who has led the community outreach program for the Department of Education.

There were many surprises at the ceremony. There was a slight shift in the programme to accommodate the United Nations based International Organization for Migration (IOM). Tusphi Weerakoon and Jan Wedgam, who represented the organization, announced a donation of $40,000 in funds provided by City Bank to the Ministry of Education through the Leno Learning Link. Ceremony attendees were ecstatic about the organization’s donation which sparked additional giving from others. As Aliv’s CEO Damian Blackburn spoke about Aliv’s partnership with the Ministry of Education and Leno Learning Link initiative, he added that he would pledge an additional $10,000 for learning devices to be distributed to special needs children.

The Minister also thanked Tribune Media for its “extremely generous donation of space in print media and time on the airwaves” and ALIV, which is not only providing tablets at a reduced cost but completing the package with affordable wi-fi connectivity at about one third the normal monthly fee.

Leno founder and CEO Sean K Longley called the tablet or device campaign “a pressing need we can meet if we all pull together” when the initiative was introduced September 10 at the growing financial services provider’s celebration of its 10th anniversary.

“A tablet for less than $200 is a very small price to pay to give a student a fair chance in an unfamiliar environment,” he said. “As we remember how difficult it was for many of us to pay attention in every class, to complete our assignments, to take an interest in subjects of less interest to us when we had teachers right in front of us and friends in class, we can only imagine what it will be like for that young boy or girl who now must learn alone, in front of a screen, and absorb all those lessons. But imagine how much worse it would be if that young boy or girl is totally left out simply because he or she does not have a tablet or laptop. We cannot allow thousands of young people to be left behind because of the lack of one piece of equipment. I urge everyone within range of this plea to support a device in the hands of every child through the Leno Learning Link.”

Tablet donations may be made by cheque payable to The Leno Foundation, deliver to Leno
2nd Floor, Pineapple Place, Bernard Road, or call 396-3225 for collection, direct deposit to Commonwealth Bank, The Leno Foundation, Account number: 110-02276, Wulff Road Branch, or through Aliv Together Platform, Campaign Name: Leno Learning Link